Background: The diagnostic utility of N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) in heart failure has been documented. However, most of the data were derived from countries with high healthcare resource use, and randomized evidence for utility of NT-proBNP was lacking.
Methods and results: We tested the hypothesis that NT-proBNP testing improves the management of patients presenting with dyspnea to emergency departments in Canada by prospectively comparing the clinical and economic impact of a randomized management strategy either guided by NT-proBNP results or without knowledge of NT-proBNP concentrations. Five hundred patients presenting with dyspnea to 7 emergency departments were studied. The median NT-proBNP level among the 230 subjects with a final diagnosis of heart failure was 3697 compared with 212 pg/mL in those without heart failure (P<0.00001). Knowledge of NT-proBNP results reduced the duration of ED visit by 21% (6.3 to 5.6 hours; P=0.031), the number of patients rehospitalized over 60 days by 35% (51 to 33; P=0.046), and direct medical costs of all ED visits, hospitalizations, and subsequent outpatient services (US $6129 to US $5180 per patient; P=0.023) over 60 days from enrollment. Adding NT-proBNP to clinical judgment enhanced the accuracy of a diagnosis; the area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve increased from 0.83 to 0.90 (P<0.00001).
Conclusions: In a universal health coverage system mandating judicious use of healthcare resources, inclusion of NT-proBNP testing improves the management of patients presenting to emergency departments with dyspnea through improved diagnosis, cost savings, and improvement in selected outcomes.