OBJECTIVE. The initial presentation of congenital and acquired heart disease in children can present a diagnostic challenge. We sought to evaluate B-type natriuretic peptide as a marker of critical heart disease in children at presentation in the acute care setting.
METHODS. A cohort of 33 pediatric patients with newly diagnosed congenital or acquired heart disease had B-type natriuretic peptide levels obtained on hospital admission after evaluation in an acute care setting. Patients were admitted from March 2005 through February 2007. A noncardiac cohort of 70 pediatric patients who presented with respiratory or infectious complaints had B-type natriuretic peptide levels obtained during emergency department evaluation. A comparison of B-type natriuretic peptide results was performed.
RESULTS. Cardiac diagnoses included cardiomyopathy (14), left-sided obstructive lesions (12), anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery (4), total anomalous pulmonary venous return (2), and patent ductus arteriosus (1). Cardiac cohort mean age at presentation was 33.6 months. The 33 patients with new cardiac diagnoses had a mean B-type natriuretic peptide level of 3290 pg/mL (SD: ±1609; range: 521 to >5000 pg/mL). The 70 noncardiac patients' mean age at presentation was 23.1 month, and mean B-type natriuretic peptide level was 17.4 pg/mL (SD: ±20; range: <5 to 174 pg/mL).
CONCLUSIONS. B-type natriuretic peptide levels were markedly elevated at presentation in the acute care setting for all patients in this cohort of children with newly diagnosed congenital or acquired heart disease. B-type natriuretic peptide levels from noncardiac patients were significantly lower, with no overlap to the cardiac disease group. B-type natriuretic peptide level can be useful as a diagnostic marker to aid in the recognition of pediatric critical heart disease in the acute care setting.