Aims: The plasma levels of either brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) or the N-terminal fragment of the prohormone (NT-proBNP) have recently gained extreme importance as markers of myocardial dysfunction. Patients with type 2 diabetes are at high risk of developing cardiovascular complications. This study was aimed to assess whether plasma NT-proBNP levels are at similar levels in type 2 diabetics with or without overt cardiovascular diseases.
Methods: We assayed plasma NT-proBNP in 54 type 2 diabetics, 27 of whom had no overt macro- and/or microvascular complications, while the remaining ones had either or both. The same assay was carried out in 38 healthy control subjects age and sex matched as a group with the diabetics.
Results: Plasma NT-proBNP was higher in diabetics (median 121 pg/ml, interquartile range 50-240 pg/ml, ) than in those without complications (37 pg/ml, 21-54 pg/ml, P<0.01). Compared with the controls (55 pg/ml, 40-79 pg/ml), only diabetics with vascular complications had significantly increased plasma NT-proBNP levels (P<0.001). In the diabetics, coronary heart disease and nephropathy (defined according to urinary excretion of albumin) were each independently associated with elevated values of plasma NT-proBNP.
Conclusions: In type 2 diabetes mellitus, patients with macro- and/or micro-vascular complications exhibit an elevation of plasma NT-proBNP levels compared to corresponding patients with no evidence of vascular disease. The excessive secretion of this peptide is independently associated with coronary artery disease and overt nephropathy. The measurement of circulating NT-proBNP concentration may therefore be useful to screen for the presence of macro- and/or microvascular disease.