Objective: Antiplatelets are recommended for secondary prevention in patients with cryptogenic stroke; however, some patients may present with a cardioembolic source that has not been detected, which may modify the treatment. Because high pro-brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) levels are associated with cardioembolic stroke, our objective was to determine whether pro-BNP levels in the acute phase of stroke predict the development of atrial fibrillation (AF) in patients with cryptogenic stroke.
Methods: A prospective study including patients with cryptogenic stroke was conducted. Demographic data, medical history, and stroke characteristics were assessed at admission. A blood sample was obtained within the first 24 hours from stroke onset to determine pro-BNP levels. Patients were followed by a neurologist at 3 and 6 months and later by a primary care physician for 2 years to evaluate the development of AF.
Results: One thousand fifty patients with ischemic stroke were evaluated. Three hundred seventy-two patients (35%) had cryptogenic stroke. One hundred eight patients were excluded from the study, so 264 patients were valid for the analysis. AF was detected in 15 patients (5.6%) during the follow-up. Patients who developed AF were older, had hypertension more frequently, and showed higher levels of pro-BNP. In the logistic regression model, we found that pro-BNP ≥360 pg/mL was the only variable independently associated with the risk of developing AF (odds ratio 5.70, 95% confidence interval 1.11-29.29, p = 0.037).
Conclusions: Pro-BNP ≥360 pg/mL increases by 5-fold the possibility of detecting AF during follow-up in patients with cryptogenic stroke.