BACKGROUND: Plasma concentrations of atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) are increased in patients with ventricular dysfunction and could have a diagnostic role in heart failure. ANP may be unstable after collection, however, limiting any practical diagnostic role. METHODS: Blood samples were obtained from 18 patients with various conditions. Aliquots were either processed optimally or kept as blood or plasma at room temperature for 6-72 h before processing. RESULTS: Concentrations of C-terminal ANP were lower in specimens kept as blood for 24 and 72 h (mean difference from control -43% and -76%, respectively, (P < 0.001) but N-terminal ANP (extracted) seemed to be stable under all conditions studied (-2% at 24 h and -7% at 72 h, not significant). CONCLUSIONS: N-terminal ANP (extracted) is stable and potentially has a role in the diagnosis of heart failure in routine clinical practice.
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