JOURNAL ARTICLE

The inclusion of N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide in a sensitive screening strategy for systemic sclerosis-related pulmonary arterial hypertension: a cohort study

Vivek Thakkar, Wendy Stevens, David Prior, Peter Youssef, Danny Liew, Eli Gabbay, Janet Roddy, Jennifer G Walker, Jane Zochling, Joanne Sahhar, Peter Nash, Susan Lester, Maureen Rischmueller, Susanna M Proudman, Mandana Nikpour
Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15 (6): R193
24246100

INTRODUCTION: Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a major cause of mortality in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Screening guidelines for PAH recommend multiple investigations, including annual echocardiography, which together have low specificity and may not be cost-effective. We sought to evaluate the predictive accuracy of serum N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) in combination with pulmonary function tests (PFT) (‘proposed’ algorithm) in a screening algorithm for SSc-PAH.

METHODS: We evaluated our proposed algorithm (PFT with NT-proBNP) on 49 consecutive SSc patients with suspected pulmonary hypertension undergoing right heart catherisation (RHC). The predictive accuracy of the proposed algorithm was compared with existing screening recommendations, and is presented as sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV).

RESULTS: Overall, 27 patients were found to have pulmonary hypertension (PH) at RHC, while 22 had no PH. The sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV of the proposed algorithm for PAH was 94.1%, 54.5%, 61.5% and 92.3%, respectively; current European Society of Cardiology (ESC)/European Respiratory Society (ERS) guidelines achieved a sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV of 94.1%, 31.8%, 51.6% and 87.5%, respectively. In an alternate case scenario analysis, estimating a PAH prevalence of 10%, the proposed algorithm achieved a sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV for PAH of 94.1%, 54.5%, 18.7% and 98.8%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: The combination of NT-proBNP with PFT is a sensitive, yet simple and non-invasive, screening strategy for SSc-PAH. Patients with a positive screening result can be referred for echocardiography, and further confirmatory testing for PAH. In this way, it may be possible to shift the burden of routine screening away from echocardiography. The findings of this study should be confirmed in larger studies.

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