This test helps to diagnose and assess the severity of heart failure. Many GPs in the UK use this test to exclude the presence of heart failure. When a BNP concentration is raised the GP may request an echocardiogram (ECG) , which will confirm if heart failure is present. By performing a BNP test first not all patients, in whom heart failure is suspected, have to be referred for further testing in a hospital.
There are various causes of heart failure. Currently, the condition is diagnosed by physical symptoms such as difficulty breathing, breathlessness, fatigue or swelling (oedema) in the legs, as well as performing chest X-rays and an ECG . These diagnostic methods can still mistake heart failure for other conditions. BNP or NT-proBNP measurements can help doctors tell the difference between heart failure and other problems, such as lung disease. An accurate diagnosis is important because heart failure can be successfully treated, yet it is often under diagnosed and undertreated.
Elevated concentrations of BNP suggest that a person has heart failure, and the level of BNP or NT-proBNP in the blood is related to the severity of the heart failure. Higher levels of BNP or NT-proBNP also may be associated with a worse outlook for the patient.
A normal BNP result implies the patient does not have heart failure and the symptoms are due to a different condition.
This article was last reviewed on 5 July 2012. | This article was last modified on 5 July 2012.
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