Heart treatment guided by biomarker cuts complications

Regularly testing for a biomarker that indicates cardiac distress could significantly reduce hospitalizations for heart failure symptoms. The study findings, conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Heart Center researchers, were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

MGH researchers found that keeping levels of the protein NT-proBNP below 1,000 pg/ml helped reduce hospitalization in those with cardio risk factors. Protein levels can be managed with medications, including beta blockers, aldosterone blockers, vasodilators and diuretics. A biomarker test would allow physicians to preemptively administer those treatments in order to lower NT-proBNP before serious complications occur.

The MGH study included 151 patients over the course of four years; researchers found that those whose care was guided by the biomarker test experienced fewer heart failure symptoms and hospitalizations. Quality of life was also better in the NT-proBNP group compared with those who received standard care.

"These results represent a turning point in our understanding of biomarker-guided care for heart failure," said author James Januzzi. "The major lessons learned from our study are that setting and achieving low NT-proBNP goals is essential, and when those goals are met through excellent patient care, we can expect substantial improvements in outcomes compared to standard care." He added that a larger study is needed to confirm the findings.

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