FRIDAY, March 31, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Levels of a hormone called brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) can predict the presence of pulmonary hypertension and the risk of death in people with serious lung disease.
That's the conclusion of a German study in the April issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
BNP, a hormone produced by the heart, is activated by various cardiovascular diseases. Healthy people have low levels of BNP in their blood. But BNP levels begin to increase if the heart is forced to work harder over an extended period of time.
In this study, researchers measured BNP levels in 176 people with a variety of pulmonary diseases. The patients also underwent lung function testing, right heart catheterization, and a six-minute walk test.
"In the absence of significant left heart disease, BNP serves as a marker of an increased workload in the right heart originating from idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension," Dr. Juergen Behr, division of pulmonary diseases at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, said in a prepared statement.
In the 10 months following the study, 31 of the patients (18 percent) died of cardiopulmonary causes.
"Patients who died during the follow-up period more frequently had elevated BNP levels and prominent pulmonary hypertension with significantly impaired right heart function," Behr said.
He and his colleagues concluded that BNP is a prognostic marker and screening parameter for significant pulmonary hypertension in patients with chronic lung disease.
The Pulmonary Hypertension Association has more about pulmonary hypertension.