Find A Physician

Return to Simple Blood Test Helps Diagnose Heart Disease in Infants Overview

More on Simple Blood Test Helps Diagnose Heart Disease in Infants

Research and Clinical Trials

Return to Simple Blood Test Helps Diagnose Heart Disease in Infants Overview

More on Simple Blood Test Helps Diagnose Heart Disease in Infants

Clinical Services

Return to Simple Blood Test Helps Diagnose Heart Disease in Infants Overview

More on Simple Blood Test Helps Diagnose Heart Disease in Infants

Simple Blood Test Helps Diagnose Heart Disease in Infants

New York (May 15, 2009)

Sleeping baby

A simple, quick and inexpensive blood test can identify heart problems in infants.

Pediatric cardiologists at the NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Center for Children's Health/Weill Cornell Medical Center have determined that the blood test for BNP (B-type natriuretic peptide) can identify infants with patent ductus arteriosus, a common condition in premature infants, and other heart problems, speeding treatment and reducing the need for expensive echocardiograms.

"BNP was originally thought to originate in the brain – it used to be called brain natriuretic peptide – but it turns out that it's actually created by heart muscle in response to an increased burden on the heart," said Patrick A. Flynn, MD, Director of Noninvasive Imaging at the NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Center for Children's Health/Weill Cornell Medical Center. "If the heart muscle notes increased stress or increased stretch, it liberates more of this substance, sending a signal out to the body for the blood vessels to become more dilated and telling the kidneys to increase the amount of urine production and the loss of sodium. That directly takes the burden off of the heart. So it's the heart's own way of recognizing a problem in its own function or in its own workload and correcting it."

BNP Testing in Infants

Cardiologists frequently use BNP to evaluate adult patients at risk for heart disease. Internists often use BNP levels when they must quickly determine whether a patient's complaints likely have a cardiac or pulmonary cause. The needs of pediatric cardiologists are different, according to Dr. Flynn. "In pediatric cardiology, while we have patients with structurally normal hearts that have pump malformations, we also have patients whose hearts don't have any difficulty with the performance of the heart muscle but still have an increased burden because of some structural or other abnormality."

Dr. Flynn and his team conducted a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics that compared BNP levels with the results of echocardiograms (a test that uses sound waves to produce images of the heart) performed on babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Specifically, they were looking for babies with patent ductus arteriosus, a persistent, abnormal opening between two major blood vessels leading from the heart. "Typically we would find the ductus arteriosus using echocardiography," said Dr. Flynn. "We showed in our study that you can identify babies that have a large ductus arteriosus and the ones that would require treatment using the bedside test for BNP."

Benefits of BNP as a Diagnostic Tool

The major reasons to focus on BNP as a diagnostic tool are that the test is easy to administer and relatively inexpensive. "The value of something like this in NICUs could be significant, especially in NICUs that are outside of major cardiac centers," said Dr. Flynn. "At these hospitals, obtaining an echocardiogram requires specialized staff to perform the test, pediatric cardiologists trained to read it, and the availability of the machine and its personnel." NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Center for Children's Health/Weill Cornell Medical Center remains one of the few centers where BNP testing is routinely done in infants. "I think we are probably just at the beginning of embracing BNP as a valuable diagnostic tool," added Dr. Flynn.

Faculty Contributing to this Article:

Patrick A. Flynn, MD, Director of Noninvasive Imaging at the NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Center for Children's Health/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Associate Attending Pediatrician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College.

  • Bookmark
  • Print

    Find a Doctor

Click the button above or call
1 877 NYP WELL


eNewsletters

Newsroom


Clinical Services


Top of page