ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: In the elderly the diagnosis of chronic heart failure is often challenging and the availability of echocardiography can be limited. Plasma levels of NT-proBNP are valuable tools to diagnose patients with heart failure. However, the performance of this biomarker to detect cardiac abnormalities in the very elderly remains unclear. The aims of this study were to investigate the relation between NT-proBNP and cardiac abnormalities and to evaluate the use of NT-proBNP to exclude structural and functional cardiac abnormalities in a community-based sample of "well-functioning" nonagenarians. METHODS: A diagnostic cross-sectional study embedded within the Leiden 85-plus Study in the municipality of Leiden, the Netherlands. Plasma NT-proBNP levels were measured and 2-dimensional echocardiography was performed in a subgroup of 80 well-functioning nonagenarians. Linear regression analysis was used to explore the relation between NT-proBNP and cardiac abnormalities and ROC curve analysis was used to assess the performance of NT-proBNP to exclude cardiac abnormalities. The upper limit of the lowest tertile of NT-proBNP was used as a cut-off value. RESULTS: NT-proBNP levels were associated with abnormal left ventricular (LV) dimensions, LV systolic and diastolic function, left atrial enlargement and valvular heart disease. LV mass, E/A ratio and degree of aortic regurgitation were identified as independent predictors of NT-proBNP. NT-proBNP levels were higher with greater number of echocardiographic abnormalities (P < 0.001). A cut-off level of 269.5 pg/mL identified patients with abnormal LV dimensions or depressed LV systolic function (sensitivity 85%, negative predictive value (NPV) 77%, area under the curve 0.75 (95% CI 0.64-0.85)). In addition, high NPV were found for LV systolic dysfunction, left atrial enlargement, severe valvular heart disease and pulmonary hypertension. The test performance of NT-proBNP to exclude any echocardiographic abnormality showed a sensitivity of 82% and a NPV of 65%. CONCLUSIONS: In this convenience sample of well-functioning nonagenarians NT-proBNP was related to a wide variety of functional and structural echocardiographic abnormalities. Moreover, NT-proBNP could be used to exclude echocardiographic abnormalities in well-functioning nonagenarians and might be used to indicate who needs to be referred for further cardiovascular examination.