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Two-Step Screening Uncovers Heart Failure Risk in Diabetes

Diabetes News



A two-step screening, using a risk score and biomarkers, can identify patients with diabetes at a higher risk for heart failure who will most likely benefit from preventive drugs.


  • Researchers compared screening methods and downstream risk for heart failure in 5 years, particularly those without atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD).
  • They pooled data from 4889 patients (age ≥ 40 years, about half women) with diabetes, no heart failure at baseline, and no signs of ASCVD. All patients had undergone screening to determine their heart failure risk level.
  • Researchers assessed the heart failure risk for patients without ASCVD with one-step screening strategies:
  • They next assessed a sequential two-step strategy, using the second test only for those deemed low risk by the first, with a combination of two tests (WATCH-DM/NT-proBNP, NT-proBNP/hs-cTn, or NT-proBNP/echocardiography), the second used for those deemed low-risk by the first test.
  • The primary outcome was incident heart failure during the 5-year follow-up. The researchers also assessed the cost-effectiveness of screening and subsequent treatment of high-risk patients with a sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitor.


  • Overall, 301 (6.2%) heart failure events occurred among participants without ASCVD.
  • Of the heart failure events, 53%-71% occurred among participants deemed high risk by a one-step screening strategy, but 75%-89% occurred among patients assessed as high risk in two steps.
  • The risk for incident heart failure was 3.0- to 3.6-fold higher in the high- vs low-risk group identified using a two-step screening approach.
  • Among the two-step strategies, the WATCH-DM score first, followed by selective NT-proBNP testing for patients deemed low risk by the first test, was the most efficient, with the fewest tests and lowest screening cost.


“Matching effective but expensive preventive therapies to the highest-risk individuals who are most likely to benefit would be an efficient and cost-effective strategy for heart failure prevention,” the authors wrote.


The study led by Kershaw Patel of the Houston Methodist Academic Institute, Houston, Texas, was published online in Circulation.


The study findings may not be generalized, as the study included older adults with a high burden of comorbidities. This study may have missed some individuals with diabetes by defining it with fasting plasma glucose, which was consistently available across cohort studies, instead of with the limited A1c data. Moreover, the screening strategies used did not consider other important prognostic factors, such as diabetes duration and socioeconomic status.


Two authors declared receiving research support from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Several authors disclosed financial relationships with multiple pharmaceutical device and medical publishing companies in the form of receiving personal fees; serving in various capacities such as consultants, members of advisory boards, steering committees, or executive committees; and other ties.


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