The prognostic significance of cardiospecific troponins and natriuretic peptides in patients with myocardial ischemia is well established, and their measurement is now endorsed by the most important guidelines and recommendations for diagnosis and management of heart failure (HF). Additional biomarkers have also been investigated to support clinical judgment and diagnostic imaging in the stratification of risk of cardiac dysfunction in patients with myocardial infarction (MI). We have performed a systematic analysis of the current scientific literature regarding the most important biomarkers of HF, selecting all prospective studies with adequate sample size (i.e. >100 patients) that have assessed, during the early phase of myocardial ischemia, the prognostic value of emergent biomarkers for new-onset HF or deterioration of cardiac function in patients with MI. This analysis has provided some good evidence suggesting that, in most cases, the use of diagnostic biomarkers of cardiac dysfunction does not translate into efficient risk prediction of HF. However, some notable exceptions were found, including biomarkers of cardiac fibrosis (especially galectin-3), growth differentiation factor-15 (GDF-15), osteoprotegerin, C-reactive protein (CRP), and red blood cell distribution width (RDW). Nevertheless, future studies with well-defined characteristics including the use of larger sample sizes, standardized end points, and replication populations, along with benchmark analyses against other consolidated biomarkers (i.e. cardiospecific troponins and natriuretic peptides), should be planned. Such evaluations will help to establish whether an integrated approach including biomarkers of different pathogenetic pathways - for example, apoptosis, stress of cardiomyocytes, cardiac fibrosis, inflammation, and extra-cardiac involvement - may be cost effective for identifying patients at increased risk of developing HF, and who, therefore, may benefit from a tailored therapeutic strategy.
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