Natriuretic peptides in valvular heart disease
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Plasma natriuretic peptide concentrations rise in response to either atrial or ventricular wall stretch and have been found to be useful in the diagnosis and assessment of patients with congestive cardiac failure. Although previous studies have suggested that plasma natriuretic peptides may offer some prognostic information in patients with valvular heart disease, it is unclear whether concentrations reflect disease severity and how plasma concentrations vary across different valve lesions. The aim of this research was to identify the factors that affect natriuretic peptide releases in valvular heart disease (VHD) and to investigate whether natriuretic peptides can be used in clinical practice to identify those patients who may benefit from early intervention. Plasma brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) concentrations were measured in patients with normal left ventricular (LV) systolic function and isolated VHD (mitral regurgitation, MR, n=33; aortic regurgitation, AR, n=39; aortic stenosis, AS, n=34; mitral stenosis, MS, n=30), and age and sex matched controls (n=39) immediately prior to exercise stress echocardiography. Peptide levels were compared against age and sex matched controls and against markers of severity for each valve lesions and across different valve lesions. Compared to controls, patients with all types of VHD had elevated plasma BNP concentrations [(MR median 35(inter quartile range 23-52), AR 34(22-45), AS 31(22-60), MS 58(34-90); controls 24(16-33) pg/mL; p<0.01 for all]. LV end diastolic volume index varied by valve lesion; [MR (mean ± standard deviation 77±14), AR (91±28), AS (50±17), MS (43±11), controls (52±13) mL/m2; p<0.0001]. There were no associations between LV volume and BNP. Left atrial (LA) area index varied [MR (18±4cm2/m2), AR (12±2), AS (11±3), MS (19±6), controls (11±2); p<0.0001], but correlated with plasma BNP concentrations: MR (r=0.42,p=0.02), MS (r=0.86,p<0.0001), AR (r=0.53,p=0.001), AS (r=0.52, p=0.002). Higher plasma BNP concentrations were associated with increased pulmonary artery pressure and reduced exercise capacity. Despite adverse cardiac remodelling, 81(60%) patients had a BNP concentration within the normal range. In patients with MS BNP was strongly associated with left atrial area index (r=0.86; p<0.0001) and a BNP level of greater than 2 times the upper limit of normal identified patients who fulfilled guideline criteria for intervention (Area under the curve (AUC) 0.87 [0.74,0.99], p =0.006) and lower exercise capacity (AUC 0.82 [0.67,0.97]; p=0.004). In AR patients significant remodelling could occur whilst BNP remained within the normal range and in general BNP appeared less useful in assessing disease severity. However raised levels of BNP was associated with more severe AR as assessed by left ventricular outflow tract:AR Jet area ratio (r=0.43 p=0.0007). AR patients with an abnormal BNP had signs of early LV dysfunction on exercise with a lower LV longitudinal strain rate post exercise compared to AR patients with a normal BNP (0.68±0.31 vs. 1.06±0.45 1/sec; p=0.02). In MR patients, higher plasma BNP concentrations were associated with larger left atrial area index (r=0.42, p=0.02), higher pulmonary artery pressure (r=0.53, p=0.002) and a lower exercise time (r=-0.60, p=0.0002). BNP was not associated with any marker of left ventricular size or function in MR. These findings suggest that despite significant LV remodelling, plasma BNP concentrations are often normal in patients with VHD. Consequently, plasma BNP concentrations should be interpreted with caution when assessing patients with VHD. However natriuretic peptide levels offer complementary information to the standard assessment of patients with VHD and an unexplained finding of an elevated BNP in an otherwise asymptomatic patient should prompt further investigation.