Meta-analysis: effect of B-type natriuretic peptide testing on clinical outcomes in patients with acute dyspnea in the emergency setting

Ann Intern Med. 2010 Dec 7;153(11):728-35. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-153-11-201012070-00006.


Background: Although the accuracy of B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) testing for diagnosing acute decompensated heart failure has been extensively evaluated, the effect of this test on clinical outcomes remains unclear.

Purpose: To investigate whether BNP testing of patients presenting with acute dyspnea in the emergency department leads to fewer admissions, shorter length of stay, and improved short-term survival compared with usual care without BNP testing.

Data sources: Two reviewers searched Ovid MEDLINE and EMBASE, without language restrictions, to identify pertinent studies published from January 1996 to July 2010.

Study selection: Randomized, controlled trials that compared BNP testing to diagnose heart failure with routine care in patients presenting with acute dyspnea and information about 1 or more of the following outcomes: mortality, admission, or length of hospital stay.

Data extraction: Two authors independently reviewed articles, extracted data, and assessed quality and risk for bias of studies.

Data synthesis: Five trials conducted in 5 countries and involving 2513 patients met inclusion criteria. Study settings had differing emergency department staffing models and used various BNP testing protocols. The pooled estimate of effect of BNP testing on all-cause mortality had wide confidence bounds and was inconclusive (odds ratio, 0.96 [95% CI, 0.65 to 1.41]). Admission rates decreased in the tested group compared with the control group (odds ratio, 0.82 [CI, 0.67 to 1.01]), although this finding was not statistically significant. Length of hospital and critical care unit stay were both modestly reduced in the tested group compared with the control group, with a mean difference of -1.22 days (CI, -2.31 to -0.14 day) and -0.56 day (CI, -1.06 to -0.05 day), respectively.

Limitation: Few relevant trials were studied. Patients included in the trials and the settings in which trials were conducted were heterogeneous.

Conclusion: B-type natriuretic peptide testing in the emergency department for patients presenting with acute dyspnea decreased length hospital of stay by about 1 day and possibly reduced admission rates but did not conclusively affect hospital mortality rates.

Primary funding source: Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Dyspnea / etiology*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis*
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Natriuretic Peptide, Brain / blood*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers
  • Natriuretic Peptide, Brain