ProBNP: A Valuable New Test for Heart Disease

ProBNP:
A Valuable New Test for Heart Disease

By Dr. Ed Mapes
Stonebridge Animal Hospital
McKinney, Tx.

Biomarkers are substances released from damaged or diseased tissues into the bloodstream that can give us information about those tissues. The detection of biomarkers has long been extremely useful in human medicine, and veterinarians are now able to use this technology to gain valuable insight about our patients as well.

Physicians routinely use blood tests to assess patients with symptoms of heart attack or chest pain to determine the degree of cardiac damage. These tests detect the presence of cardiac biomarkers, and veterinarians can now use our own cardiac biomarker to diagnose the degree to which a dog or cat’s heart is diseased or damaged. This helps us in diagnosis, prognosis, and in providing appropriate treatment of our patients.

A very useful cardiac biomarker would be one that is released early in the disease process and rises in proportion to the extent of heart damage. A determination of blood levels of this biomarker would help determine the extent of heart damage beyond other testing that has previously been available.

B type natriuretic peptide (BNP) is a member of a family of hormones that are released in response to increased stretch or strain of heart muscle. Their role is to relieve pressure within the heart and arteries by promoting the excretion of salt and water through the kidneys.

In veterinary medicine, we can test for blood levels of 3, 4 NTproBNP, a substance derived from BNP. This hormone fits the ideal biomarker very well; increasing in blood levels at the onset of heart damage, and increasing in concentration as the damage worsens in severity.

We often see dogs and cats with symptoms of possible heart disease, but it can often (especially in cats) be difficult to distinguish between primary heart disease versus lung problems, and the degree to which the heart is diseased. Other testing such as blood profiles, chest radiographs, and ultrasound are also used in our assessments, but the availability of the proBNP cardiac biomarker test gives veterinarians another invaluable means of gathering important information.

We can now distinguish between primary cardiac versus lung disease and measure the degree of heart muscle damage. This guides us in selecting the most appropriate medications to treat the specific condition and allows more accurate assessments of the prognosis for that patient.

The test involves only a blood sample that we send to the laboratory for testing, which can be taken while drawing blood for any other reason. In the future there may well be an in-house version of the test that will take only minutes to run right in the hospital.

Be sure to ask your veterinarian about this test whenever a heart problem is detected or even suspected in your pet.

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