Scientists have identified a hormone, called brain natriuretic peptide or BNP, that can identify patients with sickle cell disease whose condition have progressed to pulmonary hypertension. The hormone, which can easily be detected in blood tests, can also predict the likelihood of pulmonary hypertension-related heart-failure in sickle cell patients.
In [pulmonary hypertension], there is constant high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries that supply the lungs. This pressure leads to narrowed arteries, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood. Pulmonary hypertension often leads to heart failure and it is a major risk factor for death in adults with sickle cell disease.
Along with echocardiograms and other heart tests, determining the levels of BNP in the blood can be a useful diagnostic tool for the screening and treatment of sickle cell patients.