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  1. Saul, Lauren RN, MSN
  2. Shatzer, Melanie RN, MSN, CCRN


The incidence of heart failure (HF) is on the increase with the aging population. Heart failure can manifest as either systolic or diastolic dysfunction. Systolic dysfunction causes impaired ventricular contractility with an ejection fraction of less than 45%. In contrast, diastolic dysfunction is evidenced by impaired ventricular relaxation and an ejection fraction greater than 45%. The diagnosis of HF is challenging with patients who present with acute dyspnea and a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pneumonia. The pathophysiology of HF and the resulting compensatory mechanisms involve a complex neuroendocrine response that includes a release of natriuretic peptides including B-type natriuretic peptides (BNPs). Elevation of BNP is in response to ventricular wall stress and volume overload from HF. BNP promotes natriuresis, diuresis, and vasodilitation and therefore counteracts some of the deleterious effects of the neuroendocrine response in HF. Recently, a new laboratory test for BNP has been developed to assist in rapid identification of patients with HF. Research studies have shown that BNP testing assists in differentiating between cardiac and pulmonary causes of acute dyspnea and could be used to evaluate effectiveness of therapy and as a predictor for length of stay and readmission.