The study, led by a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cardiologist, appears in the July 18 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"This is extremely novel and exciting. There has never been a blood test for congestive heart failure before," said lead investigator Alan Maisel, M.D., director of the Coronary Care Unit at the VA San Diego Health Care System and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego.
The test, developed by San Diego-based Biosite, Inc., detects elevated levels in the blood of a hormone called B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP). The hormone is released by the heart ventricles when pressure rises, signaling a failing heart.
The BNP test received approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000, and is currently the only blood test cleared by the FDA as an aid in diagnosing congestive heart failure. It proved effective in an earlier pilot study by Dr. Maisel and is already in use in more than 300 hospitals in the United States.
Congestive heart failure (CHF) occurs when the heart can't pump enough blood to supply the rest of the body. As a result, blood backs up in the body, mainly the liver, lungs, hands and feet. Physical symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing and swelling.
The condition is different from heart attack, where the blood supply to the heart itself is restricted. CHF affects nearly 5 million Americans, with more than 500,000 new cases each year. People with CHF can be treated through medication and lifestyle changes, but the five-year survival rate is only about 50 percent.
When patients arrive at the emergency room with shortn
Contact: Cindy Butler
VA Research Communications Service