What Blood Tests Should Be Done To Diagnose Heart Failure?

Question: What blood tests should be done to diagnose heart failure?

Answer: Well, heart failure is a clinical diagnosis to begin with. It's based on the patient's symptoms and the clinical signs that the doctor can see. However, there are a number of blood test that should be done when the initial evaluation of the patient to make sure that some other process isn't causing a problem.

The other things that sometimes get confused with heart failure are liver disease, lung disease and kidney disease. So liver disease and kidney disease lend themselves very well to blood tests.

Also some other conditions such as anemia can cause heart failure because there aren't enough red cells in the blood and the blood has to compensate by pumping more and more blood to the point where it can literally fail because of some severe anemia.

So things like blood counts are very important. Also if there is any major disease process that maybe associated with a heart condition that you pick up by talking to the patient or examining them-- that can be tested for too in the blood work.

But there isn't a specific blood test for heart failure. There's a great deal of interest in a test called B-Type Natriuretic Peptide or BNP.

Now that blood test is often elevated and actually is particularly useful in the patient who shows up short of breath to the emergency room. And there to be able to distinguish the person who's short of breath because of lung trouble versus the person who is short of breath because of heart failure.

However it shouldn't be seen as a diagnostic of heart failure. It has to be taken in full clinical context.