B-type natriuretic peptide in the evaluation and management of dyspnoea in primary care

J Intern Med. 2012 Nov;272(5):504-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2012.02552.x. Epub 2012 Jun 12.


Objectives: The rapid and accurate diagnosis of heart failure in primary care is a major unmet clinical need. We evaluated the additional use of B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) levels.

Design: A randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Twenty-nine primary care physicians in Switzerland and Germany coordinated by the University Hospital Basel, Switzerland.

Subjects: A total of 323 consecutive patients presenting with dyspnoea.

Interventions: Assignment in a 1 : 1 ratio to a diagnostic strategy including point-of-care measurement of BNP (n = 163) or standard assessment without BNP (n = 160). The total medical cost at 3 months was the primary end-point. Secondary end-points were diagnostic certainty, time to appropriate therapy, functional capacity, hospitalization and mortality. The final diagnosis was adjudicated by a physician blinded to the BNP levels.

Results: Heart failure was the final diagnosis in 34% of patients. The number of hospitalizations, functional status and total medical cost at 3 months [median $1655, interquartile range (IQR), 850-3331 vs. $1541, IQR 859-2827; P = 0.68] were similar in both groups. BNP increased diagnostic certainty as defined by the need for further diagnostic work-up (33% vs. 45%; P = 0.02) and accelerated the initiation of the appropriate treatment (13 days vs. 25 days; P = 0.01). The area under the receiver-operating characteristics curve for BNP to identify heart failure was 0.87 (95% confidence interval, 0.81-0.93).

Conclusions: The use of BNP levels in primary care did not reduce total medical cost, but improved some of the secondary end-points including diagnostic certainty and time to initiation of appropriate treatment.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00130611.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Dyspnea / diagnosis*
  • Dyspnea / economics
  • Dyspnea / therapy
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis*
  • Heart Failure / economics
  • Heart Failure / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Natriuretic Agents / blood*
  • Natriuretic Peptide, Brain / blood*
  • Natriuretic Peptide, Brain / economics
  • Primary Health Care
  • ROC Curve
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Single-Blind Method


  • Biomarkers
  • Natriuretic Agents
  • Natriuretic Peptide, Brain

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00130611