Objective. To determine plasma levels of N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (N-BNP) in control children to establish a normal age-dependent range from the neonatal period to adulthood. In addition, plasma concentrations of N-BNP were measured in children with congestive heart failure (CHF) and correlated with ejection fraction and clinical symptoms of heart failure.

Methods. For establishing a normal age-dependent range of plasma N-BNP, venous blood samples were taken in 133 control patients from the neonatal period to adulthood (10 days–32 years) and in 31 children with CHF. Plasma N-BNP levels were determined by an enzyme immunoassay. In children (1 month–14 years) with CHF, plasma N-BNP levels were correlated to ejection fraction measured by echocardiography and clinical symptoms of heart failure using the Ross Score.

Results. N-BNP levels in control children, adolescents, and adults did not show a significant age-related difference. In control children, the normal range was established between 150 (10th percentile) and 430 fmol/mL (90th percentile). Mean plasma N-BNP in control children was 311 fmol/mL (range: 74–654 fmol/mL). In 31 children with CHF, the plasma N-BNP levels were significantly higher (mean: 846; range: 219-2718) than in control children. N-BNP levels showed a negative correlation with the ejection fraction (r = −0.53) and a positive correlation with the clinical heart failure score (r = 0.74).

Conclusions. Plasma N-BNP levels reflect the severity of symptoms of heart failure and the impairment of cardiac function in children with CHF. In the future, determination of plasma N-BNP levels may be used as a helpful adjunct to monitor the effect of various treatments for CHF in children.

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