The use of plasma levels of B-type natriuretic peptides (BNPs) to guide treatment of patients with chronic heart failure (HF) has been investigated in a number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). However, the benefits of this treatment approach have been uncertain. We therefore performed a meta-analysis to examine the overall effect of BNP-guided drug therapy on cardiovascular outcomes in patients with chronic HF.
We identified RCTs by systematic search of manuscripts, abstracts, and databases. Eligible RCTs were those that enrolled more than 20 patients and involved comparison of BNP-guided drug therapy vs usual clinical care of the patient with chronic HF in an outpatient setting.
Eight RCTs with a total of 1726 patients and with a mean duration of 16 months (range, 3-24 months) were included in the meta-analysis. Overall, there was a significantly lower risk of all-cause mortality (relative risk [RR], 0.76; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.63-0.91; P = .003) in the BNP-guided therapy group compared with the control group. In the subgroup of patients younger than 75 years, all-cause mortality was also significantly lower in the BNP-guided group (RR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.33-0.82; P = .005). However, there was no reduction in mortality with BNP-guided therapy in patients 75 years or older (RR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.71-1.25; P = .70). The risk of all-cause hospitalization and survival free of any hospitalization was not significantly different between groups (RR, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.64-1.05; P = .12 and RR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.85-1.34; P = .58, respectively). The additional percentage of patients achieving target doses of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and β-blockers during the course of these trials averaged 21% and 22% in the BNP group and 11.7% and 12.5% in the control group, respectively.
B-type natriuretic peptide–guided therapy reduces all-cause mortality in patients with chronic HF compared with usual clinical care, especially in patients younger than 75 years. A component of this survival benefit may be due to increased use of agents proven to decrease mortality in chronic HF. However, there does not seem to be a reduction in all-cause hospitalization or an increase in survival free of hospitalization using this approach.