B-type natriuretic peptide is a neurohormone secreted from the cardiac ventricles in response to ventricular stretch and pressure overload. It counteracts the vasoconstriction that occurs as a compensatory mechanism in heart failure. A new test for measuring plasma levels of B-type natriuretic peptide can help in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with congestive heart failure. Dyspnea associated with cardiac dysfunction is highly unlikely in patients with levels of the peptide less than 100 pg/mL. Whereas most patients with significant congestive heart failure have levels of the peptide greater than 400 pg/mL, in patients with levels of 100 to 400 pg/mL, left ventricular dysfunction without volume overload, pulmonary embolism, and cor pulmonale must be ruled out. Thus, incorporating measurement of B-type natriuretic peptide into clinical evaluation helps physicians and nurses diagnose heart failure more quickly, especially in patients who have multiple comorbid conditions. Elevated levels of B-type natriuretic peptide indicate a poor prognosis in terms of a higher mortality and more hospital readmissions. Levels of B-type natriuretic peptide could be used to guide therapy and discharge planning for patients admitted with decompensated heart failure.

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