Background: The reliability of a clinical diagnosis of heart failure in primary care is poor. Concentrations of natriuretic peptides are high in heart failure. This population-based study examined the predictive value of natriuretic peptides in patients with a new primary-care diagnosis of heart failure.
Methods: Concentrations of plasma atrial (ANP and N-terminal ANP) and B-type (BNP) natriuretic peptides were measured by radioimmunoassay in 122 consecutive patients referred to a rapid-access heart-failure clinic with a new primary-care diagnosis of heart failure. On the basis of clinical assessment, chest radiography, and transthoracic echocardiography, a panel of three cardiologists decided that 35 (29%) patients met the case definition for new heart failure. ANP and NT-ANP results were available for 117 patients (34 with heart failure) and BNP results for 106 (29 with heart failure).
Findings: Geometric mean concentrations of natriuretic peptides were much higher in patients with heart failure than in those with other diagnoses (29.2 vs 12.4 pmol/L for ANP; 63.9 vs 13.9 pmol/L for BNP; 1187 vs 410.6 pmol/L for NT-ANP; all p < 0.001). At cut-off values chosen to give negative predictive values for heart failure of 98% (ANP > or = 18.1 pmol/L, NT-ANP > or = 537.6 pmol/L, BNP > or = 22.2 pmol/L), the sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value for ANP were 97%, 72%, and 55%; for NT-ANP 97%, 66%, and 54%; and for BNP 97%, 84%, and 70%. Addition of ANP or NT-ANP concentration or both did not improve the predictive power of a logistic regression model containing BNP concentration alone.
Interpretation: In patients with symptoms suspected by a general practitioner to be due to heart failure, plasma BNP concentration seems to be a useful indicator of which patients are likely to have heart failure and require further clinical assessment.