Introduction: C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) is a paracrine molecule which is mainly synthesized in the vasculature. High levels have been reported in sepsis, and CNP has been proposed as a biomarker predicting sepsis in traumatized patients. We aimed at evaluating the diagnostic and prognostic value of N-terminal pro-CNP (NT-proCNP) for predicting sepsis, disease severity and mortality in critically ill medical patients.
Methods: 273 critically ill patients (197 patients with sepsis or septic shock, 76 without evidence of sepsis) and 43 healthy controls were consecutively included in a prospective clinical single-center non-interventional study at the Medical Intensive Care Unit, RWTH-University Aachen, Germany. Patients' outcome was followed for about 1 year. NT-proCNP serum concentrations were determined upon ICU admission, as well as in the mornings of day 3 and day 7 after admission. Intensive care treatment measures as well as routine and experimental laboratory parameters were recorded and analyzed.
Results: NT-proCNP serum concentrations upon admission to the ICU were elevated in critically ill patients as compared with healthy controls. Patients with sepsis had significantly higher NT-proCNP levels than non-sepsis patients. NT-proCNP was strongly associated with inflammatory parameters (i.e. C-reactive protein, procalcitonin and TNF-α), biomarkers of organ dysfunction and clinical composite scores (APACHE-II, SOFA, SAPS2). NT-proCNP levels at admission and day 3 were found to be a strong predictive marker for ICU- and overall survival. Moreover, a decline of serum NT-proCNP after admission to the ICU was associated with reduced mortality. The predictive power of serum NT-proCNP was similar to 'conventional' prognostic tools such as clinical scores.
Conclusions: NT-proCNP is significantly elevated in critically ill patients, with highest levels in sepsis. Inflammation as well as organ function are strongly associated with NT-proCNP serum concentrations. Low initial NT-proCNP levels and a decline during initial treatment indicate a favourable ICU- and long-term outcome.