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J Am Coll Cardiol. 2003 Nov 19;42(10):1793-800.

Plasma amino-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide and accuracy of heart-failure diagnosis in primary care: a randomized, controlled trial.

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Department of Medicine, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.



The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of amino-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (N-BNP) on the diagnostic accuracy of heart failure (HF) in primary care.


The accurate diagnosis of patients with suspected HF presenting in primary care is difficult. Amino-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide is present in high levels in cardiac dysfunction and may improve the diagnostic accuracy of HF in primary care.


The Natriuretic Peptides in the Community Study was a prospective, randomized controlled trial of the effect of N-BNP on the accuracy of HF diagnosis. Patients presenting to their general practitioner (GP) with symptoms of dyspnea and/or peripheral edema were included. The GPs formulated an initial diagnosis based on clinical assessment. All patients underwent a full cardiologic assessment that included echocardiography and N-BNP. Each patient was randomized to the BNP group (GP received the N-BNP result) or the control group (GP did not receive the N-BNP result). Patients were then reviewed by their GP, and their diagnosis was reviewed. The primary end point was the accuracy of the GPs' diagnoses compared with the panel standard.


A total of 305 patients were included; mean age was 72 years, 65% were female. Seventy-seven patients met the panel criteria for HF. The diagnostic accuracy improved 21% in the BNP group and 8% in the control group (p = 0.002). The main impact of N-BNP measurement on diagnostic accuracy was the GPs' correctly ruling out HF. The number needed to diagnose by N-BNP measurement was seven patients.


This study demonstrates that N-BNP measurement significantly improves the diagnostic accuracy of HF by GPs over and above customary clinical review.

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