Study Ties Blood Markers to Death Risk in Heart Failure

Finding should help identify high and low risk among elderly patients, experts say

TUESDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- Among older people who appear to have heart failure, the presence of certain biomarkers in the blood raise their risk for dying, a new study has found.

Published in the May 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study linked higher levels of the biomarker copeptin or higher levels of both copeptin and a biomarker known as NT-proBNP to a greater chance of death from any cause.

Levels of copeptin appear to provide insight into concentrations in the blood of vasopressin, a hormone that goes up in people with heart failure.

"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 study authors wrote in a university news 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."

Dr. Urban Alehagen of Linkoping University in Sweden and his colleagues 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. "The original design of our cohort study did not allow us to assess diagnostic elements of biomarker measurement. Instead, we focused solely on the prognostic information of the markers when applied in a primary care population."

These data, together with our findings of the prognostic information provided by measurement of copeptin concentrations in elderly patients with symptoms of heart failure, suggest that vasopressin may be a potential target for therapeutic intervention," they concluded.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on heart failure.

Randy Dotinga SOURCE: American Medical Association, news release, May 24, 2011

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