Objective The aim of the present study was to determine whether asymptomatic heart failure (HF) in the workplace is subject to the health worker effect, making screening using conventional risk factors combined with a cardiac biomarker, namely N-terminal pro B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP), as useful as in the general population. Methods Between June 2007 and December 2009 a 'well' population deemed at high risk for development of HF was identified through health insurance records. Blood was collected from volunteer participants for analysis of urea, electrolytes and creatinine, a full blood count and NT-proBNP. An echocardiogram was performed on selected participants based on high NT-proBNP concentrations. Results The mean left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) was significantly reduced in participants with the highest compared with the lowest NT-proBNP quintile. In multivariate analysis, log-transformed NT-proBNP was independently associated with impaired LVEF and with moderate to severe diastolic dysfunction after adjustment for age, sex, coronary artery disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Conclusions A large burden of asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction (AVLD) was observed in subjects aged 60 and over with plasma NT-proBNP in the top quintile that was independent of conventional risk factors and work status. HWE does not appear to operate in AVLD. NT-proBNP testing in a population with HF risk factors may cost-effectively identify those at greatest risk of developing HF in a working population and facilitate early diagnosis, treatment and maintenance of work capacity. What is known about the topic? Chronic heart failure (CHF) has several causes, the most common being hypertension and coronary ischaemia. CHF is a major health problem of increasing prevalence that severely impacts quality of life, shortens lives and reduces worker productivity. It is often not diagnosed early enough to take full advantage of ameliorating medication. What does this paper add? Population screening for CHF is not currently advocated. This may be because conventional risk factors must be used in combination and there is no useful biomarker available. Yet evidence (SOLVD (Studies of Left Ventricular Dysfunction trials) recommends early diagnosis. We believe the work place is an area of potential screening where there is little supporting evidence. This paper provides evidence that the biomarker NT-proBNP is a useful new tool that improves cost-effectiveness of screening in a selected population. Specifically, the paper recommends CHF screening in the population with the highest potential health gain (i.e. The working population) by the sector with the highest economic gain (i.e. employers). What are the implications for practitioners? The paper presents important health screening recommendations for medical and health and safety practitioners within a selected population of workers. We feel practitioners should consider screening for incipient heart failure, particularly within Australia's working population, to save lives, provide economic benefit and extend working longevity.
- cardiac biomarkers
- ventricular dysfunction.