Background and purpose
Detection of atrial fibrillation (AF) after acute ischaemic stroke is pivotal for the timely initiation of anticoagulation to prevent recurrence. Besides heart rhythm monitoring, various blood biomarkers have been suggested as complimentary diagnostic tools for AF. We aimed to summarise data on the performance of cardiac natriuretic peptides for the diagnosis of covert AF after acute ischaemic stroke and to assess their potential clinical utility.
We searched PubMed and Embase for prospective studies reporting the performance of B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) or N-terminal pro-BNP (NT-proBNP) for the diagnosis of covert AF after acute ischaemic stroke. Summary diagnostic performance measures were pooled using bivariate meta-analysis with a random-effect model.
We included six studies focusing on BNP (n=1930) and three studies focusing on NT-proBNP (n=623). BNP had a sensitivity of 0.83 (95% CI 0.64 to 0.93), a specificity of 0.74 (0.67 to 0.81), a positive likelihood ratio of 3.2 (2.6 to 4.0) and a negative likelihood ratio of 0.23 (0.11 to 0.49). NT-proBNP had a sensitivity of 0.91 (0.65 to 0.98), a specificity of 0.77 (0.52 to 0.91), a positive likelihood ratio of 3.9 (1.8 to 8.7) and a negative likelihood ratio of 0.12 (0.03 to 0.48). Considering a pretest probability of 20%, BNP and NT-proBNP had post-test probabilities of 45% and 50%.
NT-proBNP has a better performance than BNP for the diagnosis of covert AF after acute ischaemic stroke. Both biomarkers have low post-test probabilities and may not be used as a stand-alone decision-making tool for the diagnosis of covert AF in patients with acute ischaemic stroke. However, they may be useful for a screening strategy aiming to select patients for long-term monitoring of the heart rhythm.