GPs advised to use natriuretic peptide test in heart failure

NICE has recommended that GPs use B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) testing to diagnose patients with suspected heart failure in updated clinical guidelines.

Patients at risk of heart failure can be identified using BNP testing (Photograph: SPL)
Patients at risk of heart failure can be identified using BNP testing (Photograph: SPL)

GPs should measure serum BNP or N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NTproBNP) in patients with suspected heart failure without previous myocardial infarction (MI).

Patients with suspected heart failure and very high levels of serum natriuretic peptides should be referred for urgent echocardiography and specialist assessment within two weeks.

The institute says the guidance for chronic heart failure in adults for primary and secondary care will provide up-to-date recommendations on the diagnosis and management of the condition.

Dr Mark Davis, a GPSI in heart failure and involved in development of the guideline, said: ‘This guideline will help primary care clinicians to reach the correct diagnosis in patients presenting with the signs and symptoms of heart failure and allow them to start life-saving treatment.

‘It recognises the fact that having suffered a heart attack previously will markedly increase the risk of an individual developing heart failure and the use of BNP testing will help clinicians to identify other patients who are likely to have heart failure.’

Dr Fergus Macbeth, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, said: ‘Despite the fact that there are effective treatments and interventions for heart failure, many patients remain sub-optimally treated.

‘This guideline, in recommending that cardiac rehabilitation programmes should be available that are specifically tailored to the needs of people with heart failure, aims to further improve the length and quality of life for people with this condition.’

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