Background: Biomarkers for predicting future development of atrial fibrillation (AF) have not been fully established in general populations. The aim of this study was to assess the predictive ability of serum N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) for the development of AF. Methods and results: A total of 3126 community-dwelling Japanese subjects aged ≥ 40 years without a history of AF in 2002 were followed up for a median of 10.2 years. Serum NT-proBNP levels at baseline were divided into four categories (≤ 54, 55–124, 125–299, and ≥ 300 pg/mL) according to the current guidelines and prior reports. The hazard ratios for the development of AF were estimated using a Cox proportional hazards model. During the follow-up period, 153 subjects developed new-onset AF. The age- and sex-adjusted cumulative incidence of AF increased significantly with higher serum NT-proBNP levels (p < 0.001 for trend). The association remained significant after adjustment for known risk factors for AF and cardiovascular disease (hazard ratio [95% confidence interval]: ≤ 54 pg/mL: 1.00 [reference]; 55–124 pg/mL: 1.72 [1.00–2.97]; 125–299 pg/mL: 3.95 [2.23–6.98]; ≥ 300 pg/mL: 8.51 [4.48–16.17]; p < 0.001 for trend). Furthermore, incorporation of serum NT-proBNP levels into the model consisting of known risk factors for AF and cardiovascular disease significantly improved the predictive ability for developing AF (Harrell's c-statistics: 0.828 to 0.844, p = 0.01; continuous net reclassification improvement: 0.41, p < 0.001; integrated discrimination improvement: 0.031, p < 0.001). Conclusions: Serum NT-proBNP levels can be a risk biomarker for predicting future development of AF in a general Japanese population.
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