What is BNP testing?

Pediatric cardiologists have determined that the blood test for BNP (B-type natriuretic peptide) can identify infants with heart conditions.Cardiologists frequently use BNP to evaluate adult patients at risk for heart disease. Internists often use BNP levels when they must quickly determine whether a patient's complaints likely have a cardiac or pulmonary cause. During BNP testing, BNP levels are compared with the results of echocardiograms (a test that uses sound waves to produce images of the heart).The major reasons to focus on BNP as a diagnostic tool are that the test is easy to administer and relatively inexpensive.
James L. Januzzi, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

BNP, or "B-type natriuretic peptide", is a hormone released by the heart due to a number of reasons. One major reason for BNP release is stretch of the heart muscle cells--BNP is a hormone that causes the body to release water and salt, and it also lowers blood pressure, so in essence what the heart is doing by releasing BNP when it is stretched is to counter-balance the stretch it is seeing.

This is significant, as the most common reason for heart stretch is the diagnosis of heart failure. For any number of reasons heart failure may trigger BNP release, and as such, the test (a simple blood test) is now standard for identifying or excluding the presence of heart failure, and it is also quite good at gauging the severity of heart failure as well.

BNP and its related first-cousin, NT-proBNP, are very good diagnostic tests for heart failure, and are outstanding for establishing prognosis: the higher these tests go, the more likely heart failure is present and the more likely it is the prognosis will be bad.

Researchers are now looking at BNP or NT-proBNP as tools to assist in assessing whether patients with chronic heart failure need intensification of their medications, using these tests as 'barometers' for heart failure therapy.

When the heart is under stress, it releases a biochemical called BNP (B-type natriuretic peptide). Measuring the BNP levels in your blood is one way to detect your risk for coronary artery disease or heart failure.

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