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Plasma brain natriuretic peptide-guided therapy to improve outcome in heart failure: the STARS-BNP Multicenter Study.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this multicenter study was to evaluate the prognostic impact of a therapeutic strategy using plasma brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) levels.

BACKGROUND: The prognosis of chronic heart failure (CHF) remains poor, even among patients treated in specialized departments.

METHODS: A total of 220 New York Heart Association functional class II to III patients considered optimally treated with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs), beta-blockers, and diuretics by CHF specialists were randomized to medical treatment according to either current guidelines (clinical group) or a goal of decreasing BNP plasma levels <100 pg/ml (BNP group). Outpatient visits were scheduled every month for 3 months, then every 3 months. The primary combined end point was CHF-related death or hospital stay for CHF.

RESULTS: Both groups were similar for baseline clinical and biological characteristics. Left ventricular ejection fraction was slightly lower in the BNP group than in the clinical group (29.9 +/- 7.7% vs. 31.8 +/- 8.4%, p = 0.05). At the end of the first 3 months, all types of drugs were changed more frequently in the BNP group. Mean dosages of ACEIs and beta-blockers were significantly higher in the BNP group (p < 0.05), whereas the mean increase in furosemide dosage was similar in both groups. During follow-up (median 15 months), significantly fewer patients reached the combined end point in the BNP group (24% vs. 52%, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: In optimally treated CHF patients, a BNP-guided strategy reduced the risk of CHF-related death or hospital stay for CHF. The result was mainly obtained through an increase in ACEI and beta-blocker dosages.

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