Unexpectedly Low Natriuretic Peptide Levels in Patients With Heart Failure

Katherine N. Bachmann, Deepak K. Gupta, Meng Xu, Evan Brittain, Eric Farber-Eger, Pankaj Arora, Sheila Collins, Quinn S. Wells, Thomas J. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine the frequency of unexpectedly low natriuretic peptide (NP) levels in a clinical population. Background: Higher NP concentrations are typically observed as a compensatory response to elevated cardiac wall stress. Under these conditions, low NP levels may be indicative of a “NP deficiency.” Methods: We identified 3 clinical scenarios in which high B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) levels would be expected: 1) hospitalization for heart failure (HF); 2) abnormal cardiac structure or function; or 3) abnormal hemodynamics. In Vanderbilt's electronic health record, 47,970 adult patients had BNP measurements. A total of 13,613 patients had at least 1 of the 3 conditions (hospitalized HF, n = 9,153; abnormal cardiac structure/function, n = 7,041; abnormal hemodynamics, n = 363). We quantified the frequency of low BNP levels. We performed whole exome sequencing of the NPPB gene in a subset of 9 patients. Results: Very low BNP levels (<50 pg/ml) were observed in 4.9%, 14.0%, and 16.3% of patients with hospitalized HF, abnormal cardiac structure/function, or abnormal hemodynamics, respectively. A small proportion (0.1% to 1.1%) in each group had BNP levels below detection limits. Higher body mass index was the strongest predictor of unexpectedly low BNP. Exome sequencing did not reveal coding variation predicted to alter detection of BNP by clinical assays. Conclusions: A subset of patients with confirmed HF or cardiac dysfunction have unexpectedly low BNP levels. Obesity is the strongest correlate of unexpectedly low BNP levels. Our findings support the possible existence of NP deficiency, which may render some individuals more susceptible to volume or pressure overload.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-200
Number of pages9
JournalJACC: Heart Failure
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • B-type natriuretic peptide
  • BNP
  • electronic health record
  • natriuretic peptide
  • natriuretic peptide deficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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