An inexpensive, routine blood test could hold the key to why some patients with congestive heart failure do well after being discharged from the hospital and why others risk relapse, costly readmission or death within a year, new Johns Hopkins research suggests.
In a study reported online by the American Journal of Cardiology, Henry J. Michtalik, M.D., M.P.H., and his colleagues tested heart failure patients on admission and discharge for levels of a protein that's considered a marker for heart stress. In previous studies, the levels of this protein, N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide, or NT-proBNP, have been correlated with heart failure symptoms and have been associated with an increase in adverse outcomes.
They found that patients whose protein levels dropped by less than 50 percent over the course of their hospital stay were 57 percent more likely to be readmitted or die within a year than those whose levels dropped by a greater percentage.
Testing for NT-proBNP at the beginning and end of hospitalization, Michtalik says, could help doctors and hospitals make better decisions about which patients are truly ready to be released and which ones are at higher risk for relapse, readmission or worse. Typically, he adds, patients are already tested for this heart failure marker upon admission.
"These patients feel better. They look better. But this study suggests many of them may not be completely better," says Michtalik, a research and clinical fellow in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Division of General Internal Medicine. "Even though a doctor has determined the patient is ready to go home, a change in this biological marker of less than 50 percent means the patients are at much higher risk and would likely benefit from more intensive treatment, monitoring or outpatient follow up."
Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the demands of the body, r
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Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions