Blood Test Spots Heart Failure

Lowers costs of hospital care, study finds

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By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 15, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A blood test lowered costs, cut the length of emergency room visits and reduced the number of patients who had to be readmitted to the hospital.

The test of N-Terminal pro B-type Natriuretic Peptide (NT-proBNP), a biomarker associated with worsening heart failure, helped physicians decide which patients presenting with shortness of breath had heart failure and which did not.

"Imagine a patient who comes into the ER with severe shortness of breath. They could have pneumonia or heart failure, and oftentimes this is a confusing situation," said Dr. Timothy Gardner, medical director of the Center for Heart and Vascular Health at Christiana Care Health Services in Wilmington, Del., and moderator of a Wednesday news conference at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA) in Boston, at which the findings were presented.

Information on the utility of the test already existed, but most studies were conducted in the United States, which, study author Dr. Gordon Moe pointed out, "is a country that has very high per capita health spending."

The purpose of this study was to see if the tests would improve management of patients in Canada, "a model for a publicly funded universal access system which mandates a judicious use of health-care resources," said Moe, director of the heart failure program and biomarker laboratory at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

This was a randomized, controlled study involving about 500 patients who presented to the emergency room with shortness of breath. Participants were randomized to receive either usual care or to receive the NT-proBNP test and were followed for 60 days.

Adding the test cut the length of the average emergency room visit from 6.3 hours to 5.6 hours, reduced the number of patients rehospitalized within 60 days from 51 to 33, and slashed costs (in 2005 U.S. dollars) from $5,592 to $4,631 per patient overall.

More information

Visit the American Heart Association for more on heart failure.

SOURCES: Nov. 15, 2006, American Heart Association (AHA) news conference with Gordon W. Moe, director, heart failure program and biomarker laboratory, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto; Timothy Gardner, M.D., chairman, AHA committee on scientific sessions program, and medical director, Center for Heart and Vascular Health, Christiana Care Health Services, Wilmington, Del.

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