The accuracy of a blood test measuring BNP in the diagnosis of congestive heart failure

Dr Ben Ewald, Dr Julia Lowe, Dr Bruce Bastian, Dr Phil Tynan

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a common and serious disease that affects many older people. As the population ages there will be an increasing number of patients with CHF and treatment costs will continue to increase. There are effective treatments that improve symptoms and reduce mortality however not all patients with CHF are correctly diagnosed and treated. The criteria for a diagnosis of CHF includes the presence of certain signs and symptoms and requires some objective evidence of ventricular dysfunction. This currently requires echocardiography however there is a new blood test that may be a valid way to identify ventricular dysfunction in these patients.

The test measures BNP (B-type Natriuretic Peptide), a neuro hormone which is released by the ventricles when they are under strain. In tertiary care settings BNP works well as a diagnostic test for CHF, however this remains to be validated in a general practice setting.