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The use of brain natriuretic peptide tests can help GPs improve their diagnosis and management of patients with heart failure, new research concludes.

The study of 2,889 patients on heart failure registers at 24 practices found the use of BNP tests meant a 'clinically important' number of patients had their medication reviewed or stopped.

Some 7 per cent of patients had their doses of ACE inhibitors reviewed, 4.5 per cent saw their prescriptions of ?-blockers reviewed and 2.7 per cent had their medication stopped.

'The diagnosis and management of heart failure was improved,' said the researchers, who presented their data at the UK Federation of Primary Care Research Organisations conference in Bristol.

'The accessibility of BNP made a significant difference as it enabled clinicians to treat and refer more appropriately,' they added.

The study excluded patients with a confirmed diagnosis of heart failure or uncomplicated hypertension and invited the rest for a BNP test.

Those with abnormal BNP

results were referred for echo-cardiography.

The researchers, based at Wandsworth PCT and Richmond and Twickenham PCT, said as a result of the evaluation, BNP testing would be used routinely in the study area.

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