The biomarker copeptin may help identify risk of death among elderly patients with heart failure, according to new research appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The elderly patients in the study had symptoms of heart failure accompanied by increased blood concentrations of copeptin, or a combination of high copeptin levels and the biomarker NT-proBNP. These patients, it turned out, are at an increased risk of dying of any cause, according to the researchers.
"A central part in evaluation of elderly patients with symptoms of heart failure is to identify simple tools that can aid the clinician in identifying high-risk and low-risk patients," the authors wrote in a release. "Combining a biomarker produced locally in the myocardium [the muscle tissue of the heart] with a marker produced centrally in the body may be useful in patients with symptoms of heart failure. Studies have consequently tried to establish the clinical use of different markers in the circulation."
Urban Alehagen of Sweden's Linkoping University studied 470 elderly people with symptoms of heart failure in 1996 and followed up to see what had happened to them by 2009. "The objective of this study was to apply markers in a patient group commonly encountered in primary care, i.e., elderly patients who often present with other diseases, making interpretation of symptoms difficult," the authors wrote.
Alehagen told the website HeartWire that he would like to see copeptin added to NT-proBNP for a multimarker strategy. Ultimately, it could save money and prevent unnecessary tests. "If we could add a copeptin test and show that this marker is not elevated in certain patients, then they would not need to go for echos," Alehagen told HeartWire. In Sweden, the site says, an echocardiogram costs about 10 times the simple blood test for copeptin.