Internal and Emergency Medicine

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 271–274 | Cite as

The predictive value of physical examination findings in patients with suspected acute heart failure syndrome

  • Timothy B. JangEmail author
  • Chandra Aubin
  • Rosanne Naunheim
  • Lawrence M. Lewis
  • Amy H. Kaji


It can be difficult to differentiate acute heart failure syndrome (AHFS) from other causes of acute dyspnea, especially when patients present in extremis. The objective of the study was to determine the predictive value of physical examination findings for pulmonary edema and elevated B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) levels in patients with suspected AHFS. This was a secondary analysis of a previously reported prospective study of jugular vein ultrasonography in patients with suspected AHFS. Charts were reviewed for physical examination findings, which were then compared to pulmonary edema on chest radiography (CXR) read by radiologists blinded to clinical information and BNP levels measured at presentation. The predictive value of every sign and combination of signs for pulmonary edema on CXR or an elevated BNP was poor. Since physical examination findings alone are not predictive of pulmonary edema or an elevated BNP, clinicians should have a low threshold for using CXR or BNP in clinical evaluation. This brief research report suggests that no physical examination finding or constellation of findings can be used to reliably predict pulmonary edema or an elevated BNP in patients with suspected AHFS.


Physical examination Heart failure Jugular venous distension 


Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© SIMI 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy B. Jang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Chandra Aubin
    • 1
  • Rosanne Naunheim
    • 1
  • Lawrence M. Lewis
    • 1
  • Amy H. Kaji
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Emergency MedicineWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Emergency MedicineDavid Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Harbor-UCLA Medical CenterTorranceUSA

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