What is a BNP test?
BNP ( brain natriuretic peptide ) is a hormone secreted by cardiac cells in response to increased pressure within the heart.
BNP helps to regulate the body’s salt and fluid content, and reduces blood pressure. In patients who have heart failure, BNP levels tend to become greatly elevated during episodes of worsening shortness of breath.
Measuring BNP levels in the blood through a blood test can help doctors to determine whether a patient’s shortness of breath is due to heart failure, or to some other cause. If the elevated figure is above 400 then NICE guidelines say that the patient should have an echocardiogram within three weeks which is the gold standard of diagnosis for heart failure in the UK.
We feel the BNP test is one of the most under utilised tools in primary care and would if used more assist clinicians with the early symptons and treatment of Heart Failure.
BNP tests can also be used to monitor the severity of heart failure once diagnosed.
The chief utility of BNP measurement is that it can be helpful in diagnosing whether or not heart failure is the cause of a patient’s dyspnea.
Once heart failure has been diagnosed, some doctors believe that following repeated measurements of BNP can help guide their therapy (for instance, by helping them decide whether they have given enough diuretic medication). But clinical trials have failed to demonstrate that treatment guided by serial BNP measurements is useful in improving the outcome of therapy, so most doctors use BNP blood tests only if they need help with the diagnosis.