B-type natriuretic peptide-guided versus symptom-guided therapy in outpatients with chronic heart failure: a systematic review with meta-analysis

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Abstract

Purpose

It has been asserted that serial measurements of natriuretic peptides, specifically B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) or the amino-terminal fragment of pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP), may serve as an objective practical guide to better tailor the drug treatment for patients with chronic heart failure (CHF), and especially to detect the cases of subclinical congestion that would require an increase in drug dosing. However, considerable uncertainty remains about the alleged useful role of natriuretic peptide-guided therapy in this context. Therefore, we decided to execute a meta-analysis of published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to test the hypothesis that an improvement of clinical outcomes in outpatients with CHF may be achieved by adjustment of pharmacologic dosing performed according to natriuretic peptide determinations.

Methods

The relevant studies were collected through a search across the PubMed database (January 1996 to September 2012). For our meta-analysis, parallel-group RCTs were eligible for inclusion if they met the following criteria: they enrolled patients with CHF, they randomized patients to a strategy of titrating drug therapy based on the level of a circulating natriuretic peptide (BNP or NT-proBNP) compared to a parallel control group treated according to the clinical conventional criteria, and they reported all-cause mortality. In addition, it was established that each RCT to be incorporated in the evaluation should have included more than 60 participants and its follow-up should have been longer than 90 days. The primary endpoint of the meta-analysis was all-cause mortality and hospitalization related to heart failure (combined endpoint).

Results

In the six pooled RCTs subjected to final meta-analysis (total of included patients = 1775), natriuretic peptide-guided therapy for outpatients with CHF was shown to be associated with a decreased risk of death and heart failure hospitalizations during follow-up (odds ratio – random effect model: 0.64; 95% confidence interval: 0.43–0.95; P = 0.026).

Conclusion

This meta-analysis supports the hypothesis that natriuretic peptide-guided therapy is superior to symptom-guided therapy for improving clinical outcomes in CHF outpatients. However, some large RCTs failed to document significant clinical improvement in terms of mortality and morbidity using a natriuretic peptide-guided strategy; thus, any attempt to clarify this still unresolved issue by means of further basic and clinical research is recommended in the future.

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