Heart Failure

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Practice Essentials

Heart failure develops when the heart, via an abnormality of cardiac function (detectable or not), fails to pump blood at a rate commensurate with the requirements of the metabolizing tissues or is able to do so only with an elevated diastolic filling pressure.

Essential update:FDA approves first wireless implantable monitor for patients with NYHA class III heart failure

The FDA has approved the first permanently implantable wireless hemodynamic monitoring system (CardioMEMS HF System) for patients with New York Heart Association (NYHA) class III heart failure who have been hospitalized within the past year.[1, 2] The device measures pulmonary artery (PA) pressures (eg, systolic, diastolic, and mean) as well as heart rate, and consists of a sensor/monitor implanted permanently in the PA, a transvenous catheter to deploy the sensor within the distal PA, and an electronics system that acquires and processes the signal from the sensor/monitor and transfers PA measurements to a secure database.

Approval for the device was based on results from 550 patients from the open-label CHAMPION study (CardioMEMS Heart Sensor Allows Monitoring of Pressure to Improve Outcomes in NYHA Class III Heart Failure Patients), in which the device reduced hospitalizations by 30% compared with standard care.[2]

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of heart failure include the following:

See Clinical Presentation for more detail.

Diagnosis

Heart failure criteria, classification, and staging

The Framingham criteria for the diagnosis of heart failure consists of the concurrent presence of either 2 major criteria or 1 major and 2 minor criteria.[3]

Major criteria include the following:

Minor criteria are as follows:

The New York Heart Association (NYHA) classification system categorizes heart failure on a scale of I to IV,[4] as follows:

The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) staging system is defined by the following 4 stages[5, 6] :

Testing

The following tests may be useful in the initial evaluation for suspected heart failure[5, 7, 8] :

See Workup for more detail.

Management

Treatment includes the following:

Surgical options

Surgical treatment options include the following:

See Treatment and Medication for more detail.

Image library


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This chest radiograph shows an enlarged cardiac silhouette and edema at the lung bases, signs of acute heart failure.

Background

Heart failure is the pathophysiologic state in which the heart, via an abnormality of cardiac function (detectable or not), fails to pump blood at a rate commensurate with the requirements of the metabolizing tissues or is able to do so only with an elevated diastolic filling pressure.

Heart failure (see the images below) may be caused by myocardial failure but may also occur in the presence of near-normal cardiac function under conditions of high demand. Heart failure always causes circulatory failure, but the converse is not necessarily the case, because various noncardiac conditions (eg, hypovolemic shock, septic shock) can produce circulatory failure in the presence of normal, modestly impaired, or even supranormal cardiac function. To maintain the pumping function of the heart, compensatory mechanisms increase blood volume, cardiac filling pressure, heart rate, and cardiac muscle mass. However, despite these mechanisms, there is progressive decline in the ability of the heart to contract and relax, resulting in worsening heart failure.


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This chest radiograph shows an enlarged cardiac silhouette and edema at the lung bases, signs of acute heart failure.


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A 28-year-old woman presented with acute heart failure secondary to chronic hypertension. The enlarged cardiac silhouette on this anteroposterior (AP)....


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This magnetic resonance image shows a scar in the anterior cardiac wall, which may be indicative of a previous myocardial infarction (MI). MIs can pre....

Signs and symptoms of heart failure include tachycardia and manifestations of venous congestion (eg, edema) and low cardiac output (eg, fatigue). Breathlessness is a cardinal symptom of left ventricular (LV) failure that may manifest with progressively increasing severity.

Heart failure can be classified according to a variety of factors (see Heart Failure Criteria and Classification). The New York Heart Association (NYHA) classification for heart failure comprises 4 classes, based on the relationship between symptoms and the amount of effort required to provoke them, as follows[4] :

The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) heart failure guidelines complement the NYHA classification to reflect the progression of disease and are divided into 4 stages, as follows[5, 6] :

Laboratory studies for heart failure should include a complete blood count (CBC), electrolytes, and renal function studies. Imaging studies such as chest radiography and 2-dimensional echocardiography are recommended in the initial evaluation of patients with known or suspected heart failure. B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) and N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) levels can be useful in differentiating cardiac and noncardiac causes of dyspnea. (See the Workup Section for more information.)

In acute heart failure, patient care consists of stabilizing the patient's clinical condition; establishing the diagnosis, etiology, and precipitating factors; and initiating therapies to provide rapid symptom relief and survival benefit. Surgical options for heart failure include revascularization procedures, electrophysiologic intervention, cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), valve replacement or repair, ventricular restoration, heart transplantation, and ventricular assist devices (VADs). (See the Treatment Section for more information.)

The goals of pharmacotherapy are to increase survival and to prevent complications. Along with oxygen, medications assisting with symptom relief include diuretics, digoxin, inotropes, and morphine. Drugs that can exacerbate heart failure should be avoided (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs], calcium channel blockers [CCBs], and most antiarrhythmic drugs). (See the Medication Section for more information.)

For further information, see the Medscape Reference articles Pediatric Congestive Heart Failure, Congestive Heart Failure Imaging, Heart Transplantation, Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting, and Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators.

Pathophysiology

The common pathophysiologic state that perpetuates the progression of heart failure is extremely complex, regardless of the precipitating event. Compensatory mechanisms exist on every level of organization, from subcellular all the way through organ-to-organ interactions. Only when this network of adaptations becomes overwhelmed does heart failure ensue.[10, 11, 12, 13, 14]

Adaptations

Most important among the adaptations are the following[15] :

The release of norepinephrine by adrenergic cardiac nerves augments myocardial contractility and includes activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system [RAAS], the sympathetic nervous system [SNS], and other neurohumoral adjustments that act to maintain arterial pressure and perfusion of vital organs.

In acute heart failure, the finite adaptive mechanisms that may be adequate to maintain the overall contractile performance of the heart at relatively normal levels become maladaptive when trying to sustain adequate cardiac performance.[16]

The primary myocardial response to chronic increased wall stress is myocyte hypertrophy, death/apoptosis, and regeneration.[17] This process eventually leads to remodeling, usually the eccentric type. Eccentric remodeling further worsens the loading conditions on the remaining myocytes and perpetuates the deleterious cycle. The idea of lowering wall stress to slow the process of remodeling has long been exploited in treating heart failure patients.[18]

The reduction of cardiac output following myocardial injury sets into motion a cascade of hemodynamic and neurohormonal derangements that provoke activation of neuroendocrine systems, most notably the above-mentioned adrenergic systems and RAAS.[19]

The release of epinephrine and norepinephrine, along with the vasoactive substances endothelin-1 (ET-1) and vasopressin, causes vasoconstriction, which increases calcium afterload and, via an increase in cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), causes an increase in cytosolic calcium entry. The increased calcium entry into the myocytes augments myocardial contractility and impairs myocardial relaxation (lusitropy).

The calcium overload may induce arrhythmias and lead to sudden death. The increase in afterload and myocardial contractility (known as inotropy) and the impairment in myocardial lusitropy lead to an increase in myocardial energy expenditure and a further decrease in cardiac output. The increase in myocardial energy expenditure leads to myocardial cell death/apoptosis, which results in heart failure and further reduction in cardiac output, perpetuating a cycle of further increased neurohumoral stimulation and further adverse hemodynamic and myocardial responses.

In addition, the activation of the RAAS leads to salt and water retention, resulting in increased preload and further increases in myocardial energy expenditure. Increases in renin, mediated by decreased stretch of the glomerular afferent arteriole, reduce delivery of chloride to the macula densa and increase beta1-adrenergic activity as a response to decreased cardiac output. This results in an increase in angiotensin II (Ang II) levels and, in turn, aldosterone levels, causing stimulation of the release of aldosterone. Ang II, along with ET-1, is crucial in maintaining effective intravascular homeostasis mediated by vasoconstriction and aldosterone-induced salt and water retention.

The concept of the heart as a self-renewing organ is a relatively recent development.[20] This new paradigm for myocyte biology has created an entire field of research aimed directly at augmenting myocardial regeneration. The rate of myocyte turnover has been shown to increase during times of pathologic stress.[17] In heart failure, this mechanism for replacement becomes overwhelmed by an even faster increase in the rate of myocyte loss. This imbalance of hypertrophy and death over regeneration is the final common pathway at the cellular level for the progression of remodeling and heart failure.

Ang II

Research indicates that local cardiac Ang II production (which decreases lusitropy, increases inotropy, and increases afterload) leads to increased myocardial energy expenditure. Ang II has also been shown in vitro and in vivo to increase the rate of myocyte apoptosis.[21] In this fashion, Ang II has similar actions to norepinephrine in heart failure.

Ang II also mediates myocardial cellular hypertrophy and may promote progressive loss of myocardial function. The neurohumoral factors above lead to myocyte hypertrophy and interstitial fibrosis, resulting in increased myocardial volume and increased myocardial mass, as well as myocyte loss. As a result, the cardiac architecture changes, which, in turn, leads to further increase in myocardial volume and mass.

Myocytes and myocardial remodeling

In the failing heart, increased myocardial volume is characterized by larger myocytes approaching the end of their life cycle.[22] As more myocytes drop out, an increased load is placed on the remaining myocardium, and this unfavorable environment is transmitted to the progenitor cells responsible for replacing lost myocytes.

Progenitor cells become progressively less effective as the underlying pathologic process worsens and myocardial failure accelerates. These features—namely, the increased myocardial volume and mass, along with a net loss of myocytes—are the hallmark of myocardial remodeling. This remodeling process leads to early adaptive mechanisms, such as augmentation of stroke volume (Frank-Starling mechanism) and decreased wall stress (Laplace's law), and, later, to maladaptive mechanisms such as increased myocardial oxygen demand, myocardial ischemia, impaired contractility, and arrhythmogenesis.

As heart failure advances, there is a relative decline in the counterregulatory effects of endogenous vasodilators, including nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandins (PGs), bradykinin (BK), atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), and B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP). This decline occurs simultaneously with the increase in vasoconstrictor substances from the RAAS and the adrenergic system, which fosters further increases in vasoconstriction and thus preload and afterload. This results in cellular proliferation, adverse myocardial remodeling, and antinatriuresis, with total body fluid excess and worsening of heart failure symptoms.

Systolic and diastolic failure

Systolic and diastolic heart failure each result in a decrease in stroke volume. This leads to activation of peripheral and central baroreflexes and chemoreflexes that are capable of eliciting marked increases in sympathetic nerve traffic.

While there are commonalities in the neurohormonal responses to decreased stroke volume, the neurohormone-mediated events that follow have been most clearly elucidated for individuals with systolic heart failure. The ensuing elevation in plasma norepinephrine directly correlates with the degree of cardiac dysfunction and has significant prognostic implications. Norepinephrine, while directly toxic to cardiac myocytes, is also responsible for a variety of signal-transduction abnormalities, such as down-regulation of beta1-adrenergic receptors, uncoupling of beta2-adrenergic receptors, and increased activity of inhibitory G-protein. Changes in beta1-adrenergic receptors result in overexpression and promote myocardial hypertrophy.

ANP and BNP

ANP and BNP are endogenously generated peptides activated in response to atrial and ventricular volume/pressure expansion. ANP and BNP are released from the atria and ventricles, respectively, and both promote vasodilation and natriuresis. Their hemodynamic effects are mediated by decreases in ventricular filling pressures, owing to reductions in cardiac preload and afterload. BNP, in particular, produces selective afferent arteriolar vasodilation and inhibits sodium reabsorption in the proximal convoluted tubule. It also inhibits renin and aldosterone release and, therefore, adrenergic activation. ANP and BNP are elevated in chronic heart failure. BNP, in particular, has potentially important diagnostic, therapeutic, and prognostic implications.

For more information, see the Medscape Reference article Natriuretic Peptides in Congestive Heart Failure.

Other vasoactive systems

Other vasoactive systems that play a role in the pathogenesis of heart failure include the ET receptor system, the adenosine receptor system, vasopressin, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha).[23] ET, a substance produced by the vascular endothelium, may contribute to the regulation of myocardial function, vascular tone, and peripheral resistance in heart failure. Elevated levels of ET-1 closely correlate with the severity of heart failure. ET-1 is a potent vasoconstrictor and has exaggerated vasoconstrictor effects in the renal vasculature, reducing renal plasma blood flow, glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and sodium excretion.

TNF-alpha has been implicated in response to various infectious and inflammatory conditions. Elevations in TNF-alpha levels have been consistently observed in heart failure and seem to correlate with the degree of myocardial dysfunction. Some studies suggest that local production of TNF-alpha may have toxic effects on the myocardium, thus worsening myocardial systolic and diastolic function.

In individuals with systolic dysfunction, therefore, the neurohormonal responses to decreased stroke volume result in temporary improvement in systolic blood pressure and tissue perfusion. However, in all circumstances, the existing data support the notion that these neurohormonal responses contribute to the progression of myocardial dysfunction in the long term.

Heart failure with normal ejection fraction

In diastolic heart failure (heart failure with normal ejection fraction [HFNEF]), the same pathophysiologic processes occur that lead to decreased cardiac output in systolic heart failure, but they do so in response to a different set of hemodynamic and circulatory environmental factors that depress cardiac output.[24]

In HFNEF, altered relaxation and increased stiffness of the ventricle (due to delayed calcium uptake by the myocyte sarcoplasmic reticulum and delayed calcium efflux from the myocyte) occur in response to an increase in ventricular afterload (pressure overload). The impaired relaxation of the ventricle then leads to impaired diastolic filling of the left ventricle (LV).

Morris et al found that RV subendocardial systolic dysfunction and diastolic dysfunction, as detected by echocardiographic strain rate imaging, are common in patients with HFNEF. This dysfunction is potentially associated with the same fibrotic processes that affect the subendocardial layer of the LV and, to a lesser extent, with RV pressure overload. This may play a role in the symptomatology of patients with HFNEF.[25]

LV chamber stiffness

An increase in LV chamber stiffness occurs secondary to any one of, or any combination of, the following 3 mechanisms:

A rise in filling pressure is the movement of the ventricle up along its pressure-volume curve to a steeper portion, as may occur in conditions such as volume overload secondary to acute valvular regurgitation or acute LV failure due to myocarditis.

A shift to a steeper ventricular pressure-volume curve results, most commonly, not only from increased ventricular mass and wall thickness (as observed in aortic stenosis and long-standing hypertension) but also from infiltrative disorders (eg, amyloidosis), endomyocardial fibrosis, and myocardial ischemia.

Parallel upward displacement of the diastolic pressure-volume curve is generally referred to as a decrease in ventricular distensibility. This is usually caused by extrinsic compression of the ventricles.

Concentric LV hypertrophy

Pressure overload that leads to concentric LV hypertrophy (LVH), as occurs in aortic stenosis, hypertension, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, shifts the diastolic pressure-volume curve to the left along its volume axis. As a result, ventricular diastolic pressure is abnormally elevated, although chamber stiffness may or may not be altered.

Increases in diastolic pressure lead to increased myocardial energy expenditure, remodeling of the ventricle, increased myocardial oxygen demand, myocardial ischemia, and eventual progression of the maladaptive mechanisms of the heart that lead to decompensated heart failure.

Arrhythmias

While life-threatening rhythms are more common in ischemic cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia imparts a significant burden in all forms of heart failure. In fact, some arrhythmias even perpetuate heart failure. The most significant of all rhythms associated with heart failure are the life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias. Structural substrates for ventricular arrhythmias that are common in heart failure, regardless of the underlying cause, include ventricular dilatation, myocardial hypertrophy, and myocardial fibrosis.

At the cellular level, myocytes may be exposed to increased stretch, wall tension, catecholamines, ischemia, and electrolyte imbalance. The combination of these factors contributes to an increased incidence of arrhythmogenic sudden cardiac death in patients with heart failure.

Etiology

Most patients who present with significant heart failure do so because of an inability to provide adequate cardiac output in that setting. This is often a combination of the causes listed below in the setting of an abnormal myocardium. The list of causes responsible for presentation of a patient with heart failure exacerbation is very long, and searching for the proximate cause to optimize therapeutic interventions is important.

From a clinical standpoint, classifying the causes of heart failure into the following 4 broad categories is useful:

Underlying causes

Specific underlying factors cause various forms of heart failure, such as systolic heart failure (most commonly, left ventricular systolic dysfunction), heart failure with preserved LVEF, acute heart failure, high-output heart failure, and right heart failure.

Underlying causes of systolic heart failure include the following:

Underlying causes of diastolic heart failure include the following:

Underlying causes of acute heart failure include the following:

Underlying causes of high-output heart failure include the following:

Underlying causes of right heart failure include the following:

Precipitating causes of heart failure

A previously stable, compensated patient may develop heart failure that is clinically apparent for the first time when the intrinsic process has advanced to a critical point, such as with further narrowing of a stenotic aortic valve or mitral valve. Alternatively, decompensation may occur as a result of failure or exhaustion of the compensatory mechanisms but without any change in the load on the heart in patients with persistent, severe pressure or volume overload. In particular, consider whether the patient has underlying coronary artery disease or valvular heart disease.

The most common cause of decompensation in a previously compensated patient with heart failure is inappropriate reduction in the intensity of treatment, such as dietary sodium restriction, physical activity reduction, or drug regimen reduction. Uncontrolled hypertension is the second most common cause of decompensation, followed closely by cardiac arrhythmias (most commonly, atrial fibrillation). Arrhythmias, particularly ventricular arrhythmias, can be life threatening. Also, patients with one form of underlying heart disease that may be well compensated can develop heart failure when a second form of heart disease ensues. For example, a patient with chronic hypertension and asymptomatic LVH may be asymptomatic until a myocardial infarction (MI) develops and precipitates heart failure.

Systemic infection or the development of unrelated illness can also lead to heart failure. Systemic infection precipitates heart failure by increasing total metabolism as a consequence of fever, discomfort, and cough, increasing the hemodynamic burden on the heart. Septic shock, in particular, can precipitate heart failure by the release of endotoxin-induced factors that can depress myocardial contractility.

Cardiac infection and inflammation can also endanger the heart. Myocarditis or infective endocarditis may directly impair myocardial function and exacerbate existing heart disease. The anemia, fever, and tachycardia that frequently accompany these processes are also deleterious. In the case of infective endocarditis, the additional valvular damage that ensues may precipitate cardiac decompensation.

Patients with heart failure, particularly when confined to bed, are at high risk of developing pulmonary emboli, which can increase the hemodynamic burden on the right ventricle by further elevating right ventricular (RV) systolic pressure, possibly causing fever, tachypnea, and tachycardia.

Intense, prolonged physical exertion or severe fatigue, such as may result from prolonged travel or emotional crisis, is a relatively common precipitant of cardiac decompensation. The same is true of exposure to severe climate change (ie, the individual comes in contact with a hot, humid environment or a bitterly cold one).

Excessive intake of water and/or sodium and the administration of cardiac depressants or drugs that cause salt retention are other factors that can lead to heart failure.

Because of increased myocardial oxygen consumption and demand beyond a critical level, the following high-output states can precipitate the clinical presentation of heart failure:

Longitudinal data from the Framingham Heart Study suggests that antecedent subclinical left ventricular systolic or diastolic dysfunction is associated with an increased incidence of heart failure, supporting the notion that heart failure is a progressive syndrome.[26, 27] Another analysis of over 36,000 patients undergoing outpatient echocardiography reported that moderate or severe diastolic dysfunction, but not mild diastolic dysfunction, is an independent predictor of mortality.[28]

Genetics of cardiomyopathy

Autosomal dominant inheritance has been demonstrated in dilated cardiomyopathy and in arrhythmic right ventricular cardiomyopathy. Restrictive cardiomyopathies are usually sporadic and associated with the gene for cardiac troponin I. Genetic tests are available at major genetic centers for cardiomyopathies.[29]

In families with a first-degree relative who has been diagnosed with a cardiomyopathy leading to heart failure, the at-risk patient should be screened and followed.[29] The recommended screening consists of an electrocardiogram and an echocardiogram. If the patient has an asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction, it should be treated.[29]

Epidemiology

United States statistics

According to the American Heart Association, heart failure affects nearly 5.7 million Americans of all ages[30] and is responsible for more hospitalizations than all forms of cancer combined. It is the number 1 cause of hospitalization for Medicare patients. With improved survival of patients with acute myocardial infarction and with a population that continues to age, heart failure will continue to increase in prominence as a major health problem in the United States.[31, 32, 33, 34]

Analysis of national and regional trends in hospitalization and mortality among Medicare beneficiaries from 1998-2008 showed a relative decline of 29.5% in heart failure hospitalizations[35] ; however, wide variations are noted between states and races, with black men having the slowest rate of decline. A relative decline of 6.6% in mortality was also observed, although the rate was uneven across states. The length of stay decreased from 6.8 days to 6.4 days, despite an overall increase in the comorbid conditions.[35]

Heart failure statistics for the United States are as follows:

The incidence and prevalence of heart failure are higher in blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and recent immigrants from developing nations, Russia, and the former Soviet republics. The higher prevalence of heart failure in blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans is directly related to the higher incidence and prevalence of hypertension and diabetes. This problem is particularly exacerbated by a lack of access to health care and by substandard preventive health care available to the most indigent of individuals in these and other groups; in addition, many persons in these groups do not have adequate health insurance.

The higher incidence and prevalence of heart failure in recent immigrants from developing nations are largely due to a lack of prior preventive health care, a lack of treatment, or substandard treatment for common conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, rheumatic fever, and ischemic heart disease.

Men and women have the same incidence and the same prevalence of heart failure. However, there are still many differences between men and women with heart failure, such as the following:

The prevalence of heart failure increases with age. The prevalence is 1-2% of the population younger than 55 years and increases to a rate of 10% for persons older than 75 years. Nonetheless, heart failure can occur at any age, depending on the cause.

International statistics

Heart failure is a worldwide problem. The most common cause of heart failure in industrialized countries is ischemic cardiomyopathy, with other causes, including Chagas disease and valvular cardiomyopathy, assuming a more important role in developing countries. However, in developing nations that have become more urbanized and more affluent, eating a more processed diet and leading a more sedentary lifestyle have resulted in an increased rate of heart failure, along with increased rates of diabetes and hypertension. This change was illustrated in a population study in Soweto, South Africa, where the community transformed into a more urban and westernized city, followed by an increase in diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure.[38]

In terms of treatment, one study showed few important differences in uptake of key therapies in European countries with widely differing cultures and varying economic status for patients with heart failure. In contrast, studies of sub-Saharan Africa, where health care resources are more limited, have shown poor outcomes in specific populations.[39, 40] For example, in some countries, hypertensive heart failure carries a 25% 1-year mortality rate, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–associated cardiomyopathy generally progresses to death within 100 days of diagnosis in patients who are not treated with antiretroviral drugs.

While data regarding developing nations are not as robust as studies of Western society, the following trends in developing nations are apparent:

Prognosis

In general, the mortality following hospitalization for patients with heart failure is 10.4% at 30 days, 22% at 1 year, and 42.3% at 5 years, despite marked improvement in medical and device therapy.[30, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45] Each rehospitalization increases mortality by about 20-22%.[30]

Mortality is greater than 50% for patients with NYHA class IV, ACC/AHA stage D heart failure. Heart failure associated with acute MI has an inpatient mortality of 20-40%; mortality approaches 80% in patients who are also hypotensive (eg, cardiogenic shock). (See Heart Failure Criteria and Classification).

Numerous demographic, clinical and biochemical variables have been reported to provide important prognostic value in patients with heart failure, and several predictive models have been developed.[46]

A study by van Diepen et al suggests that patients with heart failure or atrial fibrillation have a significantly higher risk of noncardiac postoperative mortality than patients with coronary artery disease; this risk should be considered even if a minor procedure is planned.[47]

A study by Bursi et al found that among community patients with heart failure, pulmonary artery systolic pressure (PASP), assessed by Doppler echocardiography, can strongly predict death and can provide incremental and clinically significant prognostic information independent of known outcome predictors.[48]

Higher concentrations of galectin-3, a marker of cardiac fibrosis, were associated with an increased risk for incident heart failure (hazard ratio: 1.28 per 1 SD increase in log galectin-3) in the Framingham Offspring Cohort. Galectin-3 was also associated with an increased risk for all-cause mortality (multivariable-adjusted hazard ratio: 1.15).[49]

Patient Education

To help prevent recurrence of heart failure in patients in whom heart failure was caused by dietary factors or medication noncompliance, counsel and educate such patients about the importance of proper diet and the necessity of medication compliance. Dunlay et al examined medication use and adherence among community-dwelling patients with heart failure and found that medication adherence was suboptimal in many patients, often because of cost.[50] A randomized controlled trial of 605 patients with heart failure reported that the incidence of all-cause hospitalization or death was not reduced in patients receiving multi-session self-care training compared to those receiving a single session intervention. The optimum method for patient education remains to be established. It appears that more intensive interventions are not necessarily better.[51]

For patient education information, see the Heart Health Center, Cholesterol Center, and Diabetes Center, as well as Congestive Heart Failure, High Cholesterol, Chest Pain, Heart Rhythm Disorders, Coronary Heart Disease, and Heart Attack.

History

In evaluating heart failure patients, the clinician should ask about the following comorbidities and/or risk factors[5] :

The Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) also has the following recommendations for genetic evaluation of cardiomyopathy[52] :

Note: Due to the complexity of genetic evaluation, testing, and counseling of patients with cardiomyopathy, it is recommended that patients be referred to centers with expertise in these matters and in family-based management.[52]

The New York Heart Association (NYHA) classification of heart failure is widely used in practice and in clinical studies to quantify clinical assessment of heart failure (see Heart Failure Criteria and Classification). Breathlessness, a cardinal symptom of LV failure, may manifest with progressively increasing severity as the following:

Other cardiac symptoms of heart failure include chest pain/pressure and palpitations. Common noncardiac signs and symptoms of heart failure include anorexia, nausea, weight loss, bloating, fatigue, weakness, oliguria, nocturia, and cerebral symptoms of varying severity, ranging from anxiety to memory impairment and confusion. Findings from the Framingham Heart Study suggest that subclinical cardiac dysfunction and noncardiac comorbidities are associated with increased incidence of heart failure, supporting the idea that heart failure is a progressive syndrome and that noncardiac factors are extremely important.[26, 27, 53]

Exertional dyspnea

The principal difference between exertional dyspnea in patients who are healthy and exertional dyspnea in patients with heart failure is the degree of activity necessary to induce the symptom. As heart failure first develops, exertional dyspnea may simply appear to be an aggravation of the breathlessness that occurs in healthy persons during activity, but as LV failure advances, the intensity of exercise resulting in breathlessness progressively declines; however, subjective exercise capacity and objective measures of LV performance at rest in patients with heart failure are not closely correlated. Exertional dyspnea, in fact, may be absent in sedentary patients.

Orthopnea

Orthopnea is an early symptom of heart failure and may be defined as dyspnea that develops in the recumbent position and is relieved with elevation of the head with pillows. As in the case of exertional dyspnea, the change in the number of pillows required is important. In the recumbent position, decreased pooling of blood in the lower extremities and abdomen occurs. Blood is displaced from the extrathoracic compartment to the thoracic compartment. The failing LV, operating on the flat portion of the Frank-Starling curve, cannot accept and pump out the extra volume of blood delivered to it without dilating. As a result, pulmonary venous and capillary pressures rise further, causing interstitial pulmonary edema, reduced pulmonary compliance, increased airway resistance, and dyspnea.

Orthopnea occurs rapidly, often within a minute or two of recumbency, and develops when the patient is awake. Orthopnea may occur in any condition in which the vital capacity is low. Marked ascites, regardless of its etiology, is an important cause of orthopnea. In advanced LV failure, orthopnea may be so severe that the patient cannot lie down and must sleep sitting up in a chair or slumped over a table.

Cough, particularly during recumbency, may be an "orthopnea equivalent." This nonproductive cough may be caused by pulmonary congestion and is relieved by the treatment of heart failure.

Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea

Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea usually occurs at night and is defined as the sudden awakening of the patient, after a couple of hours of sleep, with a feeling of severe anxiety, breathlessness, and suffocation. The patient may bolt upright in bed and gasp for breath. Bronchospasm increases ventilatory difficulty and the work of breathing and is a common complicating factor of paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea. On chest auscultation, the bronchospasm associated with a heart failure exacerbation can be difficult to distinguish from an acute asthma exacerbation, although other clues from the cardiovascular examination should lead the examiner to the correct diagnosis. Both types of bronchospasm can be present in a single individual.

In contrast to orthopnea, which may be relieved by immediately sitting up in bed, paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea may require 30 minutes or longer in this position for relief. Episodes may be so frightening that the patient may be afraid to resume sleeping, even after the symptoms have subsided.

Dyspnea at rest

Dyspnea at rest in heart failure is the result of the following mechanisms:

Pulmonary edema

Acute pulmonary edema is defined as the sudden increase in PCWP (usually more than 25 mm Hg) as a result of acute and fulminant left ventricular failure. It is a medical emergency and has a very dramatic clinical presentation. The patient appears extremely ill, poorly perfused, restless, sweaty, tachypneic, tachycardic, hypoxic, and coughing, with an increased work of breathing and using respiratory accessory muscles and with frothy sputum that on occasion is blood tinged.

Chest pain/pressure and palpitations

Chest pain/pressure may occur as a result of either primary myocardial ischemia from coronary disease or secondary myocardial ischemia from increased filling pressure, poor cardiac output (and therefore poor coronary diastolic filling), or hypotension and hypoxemia.[54]

Palpitations are the sensation a patient has when the heart is racing. It can be secondary to sinus tachycardia due to decompensated heart failure, or more commonly, it is due to atrial or ventricular tachyarrhythmias.

Fatigue and weakness

Fatigue and weakness are often accompanied by a feeling of heaviness in the limbs and are generally related to poor perfusion of the skeletal muscles in patients with a lowered cardiac output. Although they are generally a constant feature of advanced heart failure, episodic fatigue and weakness are also common in earlier stages.

Nocturia and oliguria

Nocturia may occur relatively early in the course of heart failure. Recumbency reduces the deficit in cardiac output in relation to oxygen demand, renal vasoconstriction diminishes, and urine formation increases. Nocturia may be troublesome for patients with heart failure because it may prevent them from obtaining much-needed rest. Oliguria is a late finding in heart failure and is found in patients with markedly reduced cardiac output from severely reduced LV function.

Cerebral symptoms

The following may occur in elderly patients with advanced heart failure, particularly in those with cerebrovascular atherosclerosis:

Physical Examination

Patients with mild heart failure appear to be in no distress after a few minutes of rest, but they may be obviously dyspneic during and immediately after moderate activity. Patients with LV failure may be dyspneic when lying flat without elevation of the head for more than a few minutes. Those with severe heart failure appear anxious and may exhibit signs of air hunger in this position.

Patients with recent onset of heart failure are generally well nourished, but those with chronic severe heart failure are often malnourished and sometimes even cachectic. Chronic marked elevation of systemic venous pressure may produce exophthalmos and severe tricuspid regurgitation and may lead to visible pulsation of the eyes and of the neck veins. Central cyanosis, icterus, and malar flush may be evident in patients with severe heart failure.

In mild or moderate heart failure, stroke volume is normal at rest; in severe heart failure, it is reduced, as reflected by a diminished pulse pressure and a dusky discoloration of the skin. With very severe heart failure, particularly if cardiac output has declined acutely, systolic arterial pressure may be reduced. The pulse may be weak, rapid, and thready; the proportional pulse pressure (pulse pressure/systolic pressure) may be markedly reduced. The proportional pulse pressure correlates reasonably well with cardiac output. In one study, when pulse pressure was less than 25%, it usually reflected a cardiac index of less than 2.2 L/min/m2.

Ascites occurs in patients with increased pressure in the hepatic veins and in the veins draining into the peritoneum and usually reflects long-standing systemic venous hypertension. Fever may be present in severe decompensated heart failure because of cutaneous vasoconstriction and impairment of heat loss.

Increased adrenergic activity is manifested by tachycardia, diaphoresis, pallor, peripheral cyanosis with pallor and coldness of the extremities, and obvious distention of the peripheral veins secondary to venoconstriction. Diastolic arterial pressure may be slightly elevated.

Rales heard over the lung bases are characteristic of heart failure of at least moderate severity. With acute pulmonary edema, rales are frequently accompanied by wheezing and expectoration of frothy, blood-tinged sputum. The absence of rales certainly does not exclude elevation of pulmonary capillary pressure due to LV failure.

Systemic venous hypertension is manifested by jugular venous distention. Normally, jugular venous pressure declines with respiration; however, it increases in patients with heart failure, a finding known as the Kussmaul sign (also found in constrictive pericarditis). This reflects an increase in right atrial pressure and therefore right-sided heart failure.

Hepatojugular reflux is the distention of the jugular vein induced by applying manual pressure over the liver; the patient's torso should be positioned at a 45° angle. Hepatojugular reflux occurs in patients with elevated left-sided filling pressures and reflects elevated capillary wedge pressure and left-sided heart failure.

Although edema is a cardinal manifestation of heart failure, it does not correlate well with the level of systemic venous pressure. In patients with chronic LV failure and low cardiac output, extracellular fluid volume may be sufficiently expanded to cause edema in the presence of only slight elevations in systemic venous pressure. Usually, a substantial gain of extracellular fluid volume (ie, a minimum of 5 L in adults) must occur before peripheral edema develops. Edema in the absence of dyspnea or other signs of LV or RV failure is not solely indicative of heart failure and can be observed in many other conditions, including chronic venous insufficiency, nephrotic syndrome, or other syndromes of hypoproteinemia or osmotic imbalance.

Hepatomegaly is prominent in patients with chronic right-sided heart failure, but it may occur rapidly in acute heart failure. When hepatomegaly occurs acutely, the liver is usually tender. In patients with considerable tricuspid regurgitation, a prominent systolic pulsation of the liver, attributable to an enlarged right atrial V wave, is often noted. A presystolic pulsation of the liver, attributable to an enlarged right atrial A wave, can occur in tricuspid stenosis, constrictive pericarditis, restrictive cardiomyopathy involving the right ventricle, and pulmonary hypertension (primary or secondary).

Hydrothorax is most commonly observed in patients with hypertension involving both the systemic and pulmonary circulation. It is usually bilateral, although when unilateral, it is usually confined to the right side of the chest. When hydrothorax develops, dyspnea usually intensifies because of further reductions in vital capacity.

Cardiac findings

Protodiastolic (S3) gallop is the earliest cardiac physical finding in decompensated heart failure in the absence of severe mitral or tricuspid regurgitation or left-to-right shunts. The presence of an S3 gallop in adults is important, pathologic, and often the most apparent finding on cardiac auscultation in patients with significant heart failure.

Cardiomegaly is a nonspecific finding that nonetheless occurs in most patients with chronic heart failure. Notable exceptions include heart failure from acute MI, constrictive pericarditis, restrictive cardiomyopathy, valve or chordae tendineae rupture, or heart failure due to tachyarrhythmias or bradyarrhythmias.

Pulsus alternans (during pulse palpation, this is the alternation of 1 strong and 1 weak beat without a change in the cycle length) occurs most commonly in heart failure due to increased resistance to LV ejection, as occurs in hypertension, aortic stenosis, coronary atherosclerosis, and dilated cardiomyopathy. Pulsus alternans is usually associated with an S3 gallop, signifies advanced myocardial disease, and often disappears with treatment of heart failure.

Accentuation of P2 heart sound is a cardinal sign of increased pulmonary artery pressure; it disappears or improves after treatment of heart failure. Mitral and tricuspid regurgitation murmurs are often present in patients with decompensated heart failure because of ventricular dilatation. These murmurs often disappear or diminish when compensation is restored. Note that correlation between the intensity of the murmur of mitral regurgitation and its significance in patients with heart failure is poor. Severe mitral regurgitation may be accompanied by an unimpressively soft murmur.

Cardiac cachexia is found in long-standing heart failure, particularly of the right ventricle, because of anorexia from hepatic and intestinal congestion and sometimes because of digitalis toxicity. Occasionally, impaired intestinal absorption of fat occurs, and rarely, protein-losing enteropathy occurs. Patients with heart failure may also exhibit increased total metabolism secondary to augmentation of myocardial oxygen consumption, excessive work of breathing, low-grade fever, and elevated levels of circulating tumor necrosis factor (TNF).

Predominant Right-Sided Heart Failure

Ascites, congestive hepatomegaly, and anasarca due to elevated right-sided heart pressures transmitted backward into the portal vein circulation may result in increased abdominal girth and epigastric and right upper quadrant (RUQ) abdominal pain. Other gastrointestinal symptoms, caused by congestion of the hepatic and gastrointestinal venous circulation, include anorexia, bloating, nausea, and constipation. In preterminal heart failure, inadequate bowel perfusion can cause abdominal pain, distention, and bloody stools. Distinguishing right-sided heart failure from hepatic failure is often clinically difficult.

Dyspnea, prominent in LV failure, becomes less prominent in isolated right-sided heart failure because of the absence of pulmonary congestion. On the other hand, when cardiac output becomes markedly reduced in patients with terminal right-sided heart failure (as may occur in isolated RV infarction and in the late stages of primary pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary thromboembolic disease), severe dyspnea may occur as a consequence of the reduced cardiac output, poor perfusion of respiratory muscles, hypoxemia, and metabolic acidosis.

Heart Failure in Children

In children, manifestations of heart failure vary with age.[55] Signs of pulmonary venous congestion in an infant generally include tachypnea, respiratory distress (retractions), grunting, and difficulty with feeding. Often, children with heart failure have diaphoresis during feedings, which is possibly related to a catecholamine surge that occurs when they are challenged with eating while in respiratory distress.

Right-sided venous congestion is characterized by hepatosplenomegaly and, less frequently, with edema or ascites. Jugular venous distention is not a reliable indicator of systemic venous congestion in infants, because the jugular veins are difficult to observe. Also, the distance from the right atrium to the angle of the jaw may be no more than 8-10 cm, even when the individual is sitting upright. Uncompensated heart failure in an infant primarily manifests as a failure to thrive. In severe cases, failure to thrive may be followed by signs of renal and hepatic failure.

In older children, left-sided venous congestion causes tachypnea, respiratory distress, and wheezing (cardiac asthma). Right-sided congestion may result in hepatosplenomegaly, jugular venous distention, edema, ascites, and/or pleural effusions. Uncompensated heart failure in older children may cause fatigue or lower-than-usual energy levels. Patients may complain of cool extremities, exercise intolerance, dizziness, or syncope.

For more information, see the Medscape Reference article Pediatric Congestive Heart Failure.

Heart Failure Criteria, Classification, and Staging

Framingham system for diagnosis of heart failure

In the Framingham system, the diagnosis of heart failure requires that either 2 major criteria or 1 major and 2 minor criteria be present concurrently, as shown in Table 1 below.[3] Minor criteria are accepted only if they cannot be attributed to another medical condition.

Table 1. Framingham Diagnostic Criteria for Heart Failure


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NYHA classification of functional heart failure

The New York Heart Association (NYHA) functional classification of heart failure is based on the patient's symptom severity and the amount of exertion that is needed to provoke their symptoms. See Table 2 below.

Table 2. NYHA Functional Classification of Heart Failure


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ACC/AHA stages of heart failure

The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) developed a classification that described the development and progression of heart failure and that "recognizes that there are established risk factors and structural prerequisites for the development of HF and that therapeutic interventions introduced even before the appearance of LV dysfunction or symptoms can reduce the population morbidity and mortality of HF."[5] Table 3, below, summarizes the development of heart failure.

Table 3. ACC/AHA Stages of Heart Failure Development


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ACC/AHA Staging

Stage A

ACC/AHA stage A patients are at high risk for heart failure but do not have structural heart disease or symptoms of heart failure. Thus, management in these cases focuses on prevention, through reduction of risk factors. Measures include the following[56] :

Patients who have a family history of dilated cardiomyopathy should be screened with a comprehensive history and physical examination together with echocardiography and transthoracic echocardiography every 2-5 years.[7]

Stage B

ACC/AHA stage B patients are asymptomatic, with LV dysfunction from previous MI, LV remodeling from LV hypertrophy, and asymptomatic valvular dysfunction, which includes patients with New York Heart Association (NYHA) class I heart failure (see Heart Failure Criteria and Classification for a description of NYHA classes).[5] In addition to the heart failure education and aggressive risk factor modification used for stage A, treatment with an ACEI/ARB and/or beta-blockade is indicated.

Evaluation for coronary revascularization either percutaneously or surgically, as well as correction of valvular abnormalities, may be indicated.[5] Treatment with an ICD for primary prevention of sudden death in patients with an LVEF of less than 30% that is more than 40 days post-MI is reasonable if expected survival is more than 1 year.

There is less evidence for implantation of an ICD in patients with nonischemic cardiomyopathy, an LVEF less than 30%, and no heart failure symptoms. There is no evidence for use of digoxin in these populations.[57] Aldosterone receptor blockade with eplerenone is indicated for post-MI LV dysfunction.

Stage C

ACC/AHA stage C patients have structural heart disease and current or previous symptoms of heart failure; ACC/AHA stage C corresponds with NYHA class II and III heart failure. The preventive measures used for stage A disease are indicated, as is dietary sodium restriction.

Drugs routinely used in these patients include ACEI/ARBs, beta-blockers, and loop diuretics for fluid retention. For selected patients, therapeutic measures include aldosterone receptor blockers, hydralazine and nitrates in combination, and cardiac resynchronization with or without an ICD (see Electrophysiologic Intervention).[56]

A meta-analysis performed by Badve et al suggested that the survival benefit of treatment with beta-blockers extends to patients with chronic kidney disease and systolic heart failure (risk ratio 0.72).[58]

Stage D

ACC/AHA stage D patients have refractory heart failure (NYHA class IV) that requires specialized interventions. Treatment includes all the measures used in stages A, B, and C. Treatment considerations include heart transplantation or placement of an LV assist device in eligible patients; pulmonary catheterization; and options for end-of-life care.[5] For palliation of symptoms, continuous intravenous infusion of a positive inotrope may be considered.

Approach Considerations

Careful evaluation of the patient's history and physical examination (including signs of congestion, such as jugular venous distention [JVD]) can provide important information about the underlying cardiac abnormality in heart failure.[5] However, other studies and/or tests may be necessary to identify structural abnormalities or conditions that can lead to or exacerbate heart failure.[5]

The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA),[5] Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA),[8, 52] and European Society of Cardiology (ESC)[7] recommend the following basic laboratory tests and studies in the initial evaluation of patients with suspected heart failure:

The ACC/AHA recommendations also include obtaining a lipid profile and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level.[5] These tests reveal potential cardiovascular or thyroid disease as causes of heart failure. If the clinical presentation also suggests an acute coronary syndrome, the ESC recommends obtaining levels of troponin I or T[7] ; increased troponin levels indicate injury to the myocytes and the severity of heart failure.

The ACC/AHA, HFSA, and ESC also recommend the following imaging studies and procedures[5, 7, 8] :

Other studies may be indicated in selected patients,[5] such as the following:

The ESC indicates that pulmonary function testing is generally not helpful in the diagnosis of heart failure. However, it may demonstrate or exclude respiratory causes of dyspnea and help assess any pulmonary causes of dyspnea.[7]

In May 2014, the FDA approved the first permanently implantable wireless hemodynamic monitoring system (CardioMEMS HF System) for patients with NYHA class III heart failure with a history of hospitalization for heart failure within the past year.[1, 2] The device measures pulmonary artery (PA) pressures (eg, systolic, diastolic, and mean) as well as heart rate, and consists of a sensor/monitor implanted permanently in the PA, a transvenous catheter to deploy the sensor within the distal PA, and an electronics system that acquires and processes the signal from the sensor/monitor and transfers PA measurements to a secure database.

Approval for the device was based on results from 550 patients from the open-label CHAMPION study (CardioMEMS Heart Sensor Allows Monitoring of Pressure to Improve Outcomes in NYHA Class III Heart Failure Patients), in which the device reduced hospitalizations by 30% compared with standard care.[2]

Routine Laboratory Tests

Laboratory studies should include a complete blood count (CBC), serum electrolytes (including calcium and magnesium), and renal and liver function studies. Other tests may be indicated in specific patients. The CBC aids in the assessment of severe anemia, which may cause or aggravate heart failure. Leukocytosis may signal underlying infection. Otherwise, CBCs are usually of little diagnostic help.

Serum electrolyte values are generally within reference ranges in patients with mild to moderate heart failure before treatment. In cases of severe heart failure, however, prolonged, rigid sodium restriction, coupled with intensive diuretic therapy and the inability to excrete water, may lead to dilutional hyponatremia, which occurs because of a substantial expansion of extracellular and intravascular fluid volume and a normal or increased level of total body sodium.

Potassium levels are usually within reference ranges, although the prolonged administration of diuretics may result in hypokalemia. Hyperkalemia may occur in patients with severe heart failure who show marked reductions in glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and inadequate delivery of sodium to the distal tubular sodium-potassium exchange sites of the kidney, particularly if they are receiving potassium-sparing diuretics and/or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs).

Renal function tests

Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine levels can be within reference ranges in patients with mild to moderate heart failure and normal renal function, although BUN levels and BUN/creatinine ratios may be elevated.

Patients with severe heart failure, particularly those on large doses of diuretics for long periods, may have elevated BUN and creatinine levels indicative of renal insufficiency because of chronic reductions of renal blood flow from reduced cardiac output. Diuresing this group of patients is complex. In some individuals, diuretics will improve renal congestion and renal function, whereas in others, overaggressive diuresis may aggravate renal insufficiency due to volume depletion.

Liver function tests

Congestive hepatomegaly and cardiac cirrhosis are often associated with impaired hepatic function, which is characterized by abnormal values of aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), lactic dehydrogenase (LDH), and other liver enzymes. Hyperbilirubinemia secondary to an increase in the directly and indirectly reacting bilirubin is common. In severe cases of acute RV or LV failure, frank jaundice may occur.

Acute hepatic venous congestion can result in severe jaundice, with a bilirubin level as high as 15-20 mg/dL, elevation of AST to more than 10 times the upper reference range limit, elevation of the serum alkaline phosphatase level, and prolongation of the prothrombin time. The clinical and laboratory pictures may resemble viral hepatitis, but the impairment of hepatic function is rapidly resolved by successful treatment of heart failure. In patients with long-standing heart failure, albumin synthesis may be impaired, leading to hypoalbuminemia and intensifying the accumulation of fluid. Fulminant hepatic failure is an uncommon, late, and sometimes terminal complication of cardiac cirrhosis.

Natriuretic Peptides

Clinical findings and routine diagnostic tests are not always sufficient to diagnose heart failure. In such ambiguous cases, rapid measurement of B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) or N-terminal proBNP (NT-proBNP) levels can aid clinicians in differentiating between cardiac and noncardiac causes of dyspnea.[5, 7, 8, 59, 60, 65, 66] That is, BNP is mostly limited to the differentiation of heart failure versus other causes of dyspnea in patients with an atypical presentation.

BNP is a 32-amino-acid polypeptide containing a 17-amino-acid ring structure common to all natriuretic peptides. The major source of plasma BNP is the cardiac ventricles, and the release of BNP appears to be in direct proportion to ventricular volume and pressure overload. BNP is an independent predictor of high LV end-diastolic pressure and is more useful than atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) or norepinephrine levels for assessing mortality risk in patients with heart failure.[67, 68, 69, 70]

Although BNP has been determined to be the strongest predictor of systolic versus nonsystolic heart failure (followed by oxygen saturation, history of myocardial infarction, and heart rate), BNP does not reliably differentiate between heart failure with preserved ejection fraction and heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.[65] Increased NT-proBNP was found to be the strongest independent predictor of a final diagnosis of acute heart failure.[71, 72, 73]

Measurement of B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) and its precursor, N-terminal proBNP (NT-proBNP), in the urgent care setting can be used to establish the diagnosis of heart failure when the clinical presentation is ambiguous or when confounding comorbidities are present.[5, 7, 8] BNP and NT-proBNP assays have different cutoff values for ruling in and ruling out heart failure.[74, 75, 76]

The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA),[5] the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA),[8] and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC)[7] recommend measuring BNP or NT-proBNP in the workup of heart failure when the diagnosis is unclear. The HFSA recommends this test in all cases of suspected heart failure, particularly in ambiguous cases.[8]

BNP levels correlate closely with the NYHA classification of heart failure.[77, 78] BNP levels greater than 100 pg/mL have a specificity greater than 95% and a sensitivity greater than 98% when comparing patients without heart failure to all patients with heart failure.[79] Even BNP levels greater than 80 pg/mL have a specificity greater than 95% and a sensitivity greater than 98% in the diagnosis of heart failure.[74]

Table of cutoff values

Table 4, below, summarizes the evidence-based cutoff values of BNP and NT-proBNP for ruling in and ruling out the diagnosis of heart failure in the dyspneic patient presenting to the emergency department.

Table 4. Evidence-Based BNP and NT-proBNP Cutoff Values for Diagnosing HF


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BNP and NT-proBNP levels are higher in older patients,[80] women,[80] and patients with renal dysfunction[81] or sepsis. Atrial fibrillation has also been associated with increased BNP levels in the absence of acute heart failure. However, BNP levels may be disproportionately lower in patients who are obese due to fat metabolism or who have hypothyroidism or advanced end-stage heart failure (the latter due to increased fibrosis). NT-proBNP plasma levels are also lower in obese heart failure patients relative to nonobese patients with heart failure, regardless of whether the etiology is ischemic or nonischaemic.[82]

However, NT-proBNP may be elevated in severely obese patients (BMI >40 kg/m2) due to an increased cardiac burden in these individuals.[83] NT-pro-BNP may be a better marker for detecting cardiac dysfunction than BNP, because its chemical stability is better in circulating blood than that of BNP, and it is a sensitive marker of cardiac function even in early cardiac decompensation.[84]

BNP measurement not indicated with nesiritide therapy

Nesiritide is a synthetic BNP analogue; therefore, the measurement of BNP is not indicated in patients who are receiving nesiritide. If BNP is used as a diagnostic marker to rule in heart failure, the level must be determined before nesiritide therapy is started.[85, 86, 87, 88]

In a study by Miller et al, levels of NT-proBNP and BNP decreased in patients with advanced heart failure after therapy with nesiritide, but the majority of the patients did not have biochemically significant decreases in these markers even with a clinical response.[89] The investigators were unable to give a definitive reason for their results, and they indicated that nesiritide therapy should not be guided by the use of levels of both markers.[89] Fitzgerald et al also found decreased levels of both natriuretic peptides following nesiritide therapy in patients with decompensated heart failure.[90]

For more information, see the Medscape Reference article Natriuretic Peptides in Congestive Heart Failure.

Genetic Testing

Cardiomyopathy phenotypes that have known genetic cause(s) include hypertrophic (HCM), dilated (DCM), restrictive (RCM), arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C), and left ventricular noncompaction (LVNC). Because most cases of cardiomyopathy are treatable—which is not the case in many genetic diseases—and screening for genetic risk of cardiomyopathy before the onset of disease can guide the recommendations for early detection of disease and therapy (see Clinical, History),[29, 52] it is recommended that consideration be given for patients with cardiomyopathy to be referred to centers with expertise in these matters and in family-based management.[52] These specialized centers will have a better understanding of the complexities involved in genetic evaluation, testing, and counseling of patients with cardiomyopathy.

To establish specific gene testing and laboratories offering tests, please see www.genetests.org for further information and larger eviews.

Genetic testing has the highest yield in 3 types of cardiomyopathy: DCM, HCM, and autosomal dominant ARVD/C. The diagnosis must be established using the specific criteria for each type of cardiomyopathy, as the genetic testing is different for each type.

Dilated cardiomyopathy

It is thought that approximately 20-50% of idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (IDC) may have a genetic basis. Screening first-degree relatives of a proband with IDC by echocardiography and electrocardiography (ECG) reveals that 20-48% of probands have affected relatives, consistent with a diagnosis of familial dilated cardiomyopathy (FDC).[91, 92, 93]

Molecular genetic testing of the proband for an LMNA mutation is probably indicated, particularly if significant conduction system disease is present in the family. It should be noted that although the analytical sensitivity for detecting LMNA gene mutations is quite high, the clinical sensitivity (likelihood of identifying a mutation in a person with the disorder) is approximately 8% for FDC. Because molecular genetic testing for MYH7 has comparable clinical sensitivity, testing for mutations in MHY7 may also be considered.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

HCM, caused by mutation in one of the genes currently known to encode different components of the sarcomere, is characterized by left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) in the absence of predisposing cardiac conditions (eg, aortic stenosis) or cardiovascular conditions (eg, long-standing hypertension). Most often, the LVH of HCM becomes apparent during adolescence or young adulthood, although it may also develop late in life, in infancy, or in childhood.

Molecular genetic testing of any of the 14 genes currently known to encode different components of the sarcomere is clinically available. A detailed 3- to 4-generation family history should be obtained from relatives to assess the possibility of familial HCM. Attention should be directed to a history of any of the following in relatives: heart failure, HCM, cardiac transplantation, unexplained sudden death, unexplained cardiac conduction system disease and/or arrhythmia, or unexplained stroke or other thromboembolic disease.

Autosomal dominant arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy

ARVD/C is characterized by progressive fibrofatty replacement of the myocardium that predisposes to ventricular tachycardia and sudden death in young individuals and athletes. It primarily affects the right ventricle; with time, it may also involve the left ventricle. The presentation of disease is highly variable even within families, and affected individuals may not meet established clinical criteria. The mean age at diagnosis is 31 years (±13 y; range, 4-64 y).

Genetic testing should be considered in individuals who have a clinical diagnosis of ARVD based on the diagnostic criteria. A case can be made to offer genetic testing to all with a clinical diagnosis of ARVD with a negative family history based on the high rate of reduced penetrance thus far identified with the ARVD genes. Molecular genetic testing is available on a clinical basis for TGFB3, RYR2, TMEM43, DSP, PKP2, DSG2, DSC2, and JUP.[94]

For more information regarding genetic testing and cardiomyopathy, please see HFSA Guideline Approach to Medical Evidence for Genetic Evaluation of Cardiomyopathy, as well as Murphy RT, Starling RC. Genetics and cardiomyopathy: where are we now?. Cleve Clin J Med. Jun 2005;72(6):465-6, 469-70, 472-3 passim.[29]

Assessment of Hypoxemia

Arterial and venous blood gases

Although arterial blood gas (ABG) measurement is more accurate than pulse oximetry for measuring oxygen saturation, it is unclear if ABG results add any clinical utility to pulse oximetry. In the setting of acute heart failure, ABG measurement is rarely performed. Indications include severe respiratory distress, documented hypoxemia by pulse oximetry not responsive to supplemental oxygen, and evidence of acidosis by serum chemistry or elevated lactate level.

In general, heart failure patients who do not have comorbid lung disease do not manifest hypoxemia except in severe acute decompensation. Patients with severe heart failure may have signs and symptoms ranging from severe hypoxemia, or even hypoxia, along with hypercapnia, to decreased vital capacity and poor ventilation.

ABG measurement helps assess the presence of hypercapnia, a potential early marker for impending respiratory failure. Hypoxemia and hypocapnia occur in stages 1 and 2 of pulmonary edema because of V/Q mismatch. In stage 3 of pulmonary edema, right-to-left intrapulmonary shunt develops secondary to alveolar flooding and further contributes to hypoxemia. In more severe cases, hypercapnia and respiratory acidosis are usually observed. The decision regarding intubation and the use of mechanical ventilation is frequently based on many clinical parameters, including oxygenation, ventilation, and mental status. ABG values in isolation are rarely useful, but they may add to the entire clinical picture.

Mixed venous oxygen saturation (obtained from the main pulmonary artery in the absence of an intracardiac shunt) is a good marker of the blood circulation time and therefore of cardiac output and cardiac performance. Patients who have advanced heart failure have low cardiac output and slower circulation time, which translate into an increased oxygen extraction by the tissue and therefore lower saturation of oxygen (< 60% saturation).

Pulse oximetry

Pulse oximetry is highly accurate at assessing the presence of hypoxemia and, therefore, the severity of acute heart failure presentations. Patients with mild to moderate acute heart failure may show modest reductions in oxygen saturation, whereas patients with severe heart failure may have severe oxygen desaturation, even at rest. Pulse oximetry is also useful for monitoring the patient's response to supplemental oxygen and other therapies.

Patients with mild to moderate heart failure may have normal oxygen saturations at rest, but they may exhibit marked reductions in oxygen saturations during physical exertion or recumbency. In general, arterial desaturation during exercise is not expected in heart failure and suggests the presence of comorbid lung disease. The use of continuous oxygen may be needed until compensation returns oxygen saturation to normal during exertion and recumbency or on a permanent basis if oxygen desaturation during exertion and/or recumbency exists during compensated severe chronic heart failure.

Electrocardiography

A screening electrocardiogram (ECG) is reasonable in patients with symptoms suggestive of heart failure. The presence of left atrial enlargement and LVH is sensitive (although nonspecific) for chronic LV dysfunction. It is unlikely that an ECG would be completely normal in the presence of heart failure; therefore, an alternative diagnosis should be sought in such cases.[7, 8]

Electrocardiography may suggest an acute tachyarrhythmia or bradyarrhythmia as the cause of heart failure. It may also aid in the diagnosis of acute myocardial ischemia or infarction as the cause of heart failure or may suggest the likelihood of prior MI or the presence of coronary artery disease as the cause of heart failure.[5, 8]

Heart failure can have multiple and diverse presentations on ECGs (see the images below).


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This electrocardiogram (ECG) is from a 32-year-old female with recent-onset congestive heart failure and syncope. The ECG demonstrates a tachycardia w....


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Electrocardiogram depicting ventricular fibrillation in a patient with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). Ventricular fibrillation is often due ....


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This electrocardiogram (ECG) shows evidence of severe left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) with prominent precordial voltage, left atrial abnormality, l....


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This electrocardiogram shows an extensive acute/evolving anterolateral myocardial infarction pattern, with ST-T changes most apparent in leads V2-V6, ....


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This electrocardiogram shows a patient is having an evolving anteroseptal myocardial infarction secondary to cocaine. There are Q waves in leads V2-V3....

Electrocardiography is of limited help when an acute valvular abnormality or LV systolic dysfunction is considered to be the cause of heart failure; however, the presence of left bundle branch block (LBBB) on an ECG is a strong marker for diminished LV systolic function.

Chest Radiography

Chest radiographs (see the images below) are used in cases of heart failure to assess heart size, pulmonary congestion, pulmonary or thoracic causes of dyspnea, and the proper positioning of any implanted cardiac devices. Posterior-anterior and lateral views are recommended.[5, 7, 8]


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This chest radiograph shows an enlarged cardiac silhouette and edema at the lung bases, signs of acute heart failure.


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A 28-year-old woman presented with acute heart failure secondary to chronic hypertension. The enlarged cardiac silhouette on this anteroposterior (AP)....

Although up to 50% of patients with heart failure and documented elevation of PCWP do not manifest typical radiographic findings of pulmonary congestion, the following 2 principal features of chest radiographs are useful in the evaluation of patients with heart failure: (1) the size and shape of the cardiac silhouette and (2) edema at the lung bases.

Echocardiography

Two-dimensional (2-D) echocardiography is recommended in the initial evaluation of patients with known or suspected heart failure.[5, 7, 8] Ventricular function may be evaluated, and primary and secondary valvular abnormalities may be accurately assessed.[95, 96, 97, 98, 99]

Doppler echocardiography, along with 2-D echocardiography, may play a valuable role in determining diastolic function and in establishing the diagnosis of diastolic heart failure. Approximately 30-40% of patients presenting with heart failure have normal systolic function but abnormal diastolic relaxation. The primary finding to differentiate diastolic heart failure is the presence of a normal ejection fraction; however, note that findings of diastolic dysfunction are common in the elderly and may not be associated with clinical heart failure. Because the therapy for this condition is distinctly different from that for systolic dysfunction, establishing the appropriate etiology and diagnosis is essential.

Doppler and 2-D echocardiography may also be used to determine both systolic and diastolic LV performance, cardiac output (ejection fraction), and pulmonary artery and ventricular filling pressures. In addition, echocardiography may be used to identify clinically important valvular disease (see the images below).


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Hypokinesis of the anteroseptal wall observed during echocardiography in a patient presenting with an acute anteroseptal myocardial infarction, which ....


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Cervicocephalic fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) can lead to complications such as hypertension and chronic kidney failure, which can lead to heart failu....


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Cervicocephalic fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) can lead to complications such as hypertension and chronic kidney failure, which, in turn, can lead to h....


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Echocardiogram of a patient with severe pulmonic stenosis. This image shows a parasternal short axis view of the thickened pulmonary valve. Pulmonic s....


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This video is an echocardiogram of a patient with severe pulmonic stenosis. The first segment shows the parasternal short axis view of the thickened pulmonary valve. The second segment shows the presence of moderate pulmonary insufficiency (orange color flow). AV = aortic valve, PV = pulmonary valve, PA = pulmonary artery, PI = pulmonary insufficiency.

The following video and images are from patients with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), a congenital cardiomyopathy that can lead to heart failure.


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Apical 4-chamber echocardiogram in a 37-year-old man with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), a congenital cardiomyopathy. Note the prominent trabeculae and abnormal wall motion of the dilated right ventricle.ARVD can result in ventricular and supraventricular arrhythmias. The most significant of all rhythms associated with heart failure are the life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias.


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Apical long-axis echocardiogram in a young female patient with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD) illustrates end-diastolic measurement....


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Apical 4-chamber end-diastolic echocardiogram in a patient with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD) shows dilatation of the right ventri....

Transesophageal echocardiography

Transesophageal echocardiography is particularly useful in patients who are on mechanical ventilation or are morbidly obese and in patients whose transthoracic echocardiogram is suboptimal in its imaging.[7] It is an easy and safe alternative to conventional transthoracic echocardiography and provides better imaging quality (see the following videos and image).


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Transesophageal echocardiogram in an apical 3-chamber view with color Doppler interrogation of the mitral valve revealing aliasing, which is consistent with increased gradient across the mitral valve secondary to stenosis. Also shown in this image, a posteriorly directed jet of severe mitral regurgitation. Valvular heart disease, such as mitral stenosis and mitral regurgitation, can precipitate heart failure.


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Transthoracic echocardiogram demonstrating severe mitral regurgitation with heavily calcified mitral valve and prolapse of the posterior leaflet into the left atrium.


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Transesophageal echocardiogram demonstrating prolapse of both mitral valve leaflets during systole in a patient with mitral regurgitation.


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Transesophageal echocardiogram with continuous wave Doppler interrogation across the mitral valve demonstrating an increased mean gradient of 16 mm Hg....

Stress echocardiography

Stress echocardiography, also known as dobutamine or exercise echocardiography, has several uses; however, in heart failure, this technique is used mainly to assess coronary artery disease (CAD). This imaging modality may be used to detect ventricular dysfunction caused by ischemia, evaluate myocardial viability in the presence of marked hypokinesis or akinesis, identify myocardial stunning and hibernation, and relate heart failure symptoms to valvular abnormalities.[7] However, stress echocardiography may have a lower sensitivity and specificity in heart failure patients because of LV dilatation or because of the presence of bundle branch block.[7]

CT and MRI

Computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be useful in evaluating chamber size and ventricular mass, cardiac function, and wall motion; delineating congenital and valvular abnormalities; and demonstrating the presence of pericardial disease.[5] However, cardiac CT is usually not required in the routine diagnosis and management of heart failure, and echocardiography and MRI may provide similar information without exposing the patient to ionizing radiation.

The benefits of cardiac MRI (cMRI) include the ability to obtain a great deal of information with a noninvasive test. This modality provides detailed functional and morphologic information; can be used to assess ischemic versus nonischemic disease, infiltrative disease, and hypertrophic disease; and can be employed to determine viability. It is used principally for the delineation of congenital cardiac abnormalities and for the assessment of valvular heart disease, and it is the gold standard for evaluating RV function (see the image below).


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This magnetic resonance image shows a scar in the anterior cardiac wall, which may be indicative of a previous myocardial infarction (MI). MIs can pre....


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Cardiac magnetic resonance image (CMRI), short axis view. This image shows right ventricular dilatation, trabucular derangement, aneurysm formation and dyskinetic free wall in a patient with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia.

MRI has become particularly useful for evaluating abnormalities in wall motion and viable myocardium, and MRI results can help predict the success of revascularization in patients with low ejection fractions.[100] However, the detailed information obtained by MRI must be balanced by its high costs and the fact that this imaging modality cannot be performed in patients with implantable defibrillators.

Nuclear Imaging

Radionuclide multiple-gated acquisition scanning

Radionuclide multiple-gated acquisition (MUGA) scan is a reliable imaging technique for evaluation of LV and RV function and wall motion abnormalities. Because of its reliability, LV ejection fraction (LVEF), as determined by MUGA scanning, is often used for serial assessment of postchemotherapy LV function.[101]

Electrocardiogram-gated myocardial perfusion imaging

The high photon flux of compounds labeled with technetium-99m (99m Tc) makes it feasible to acquire myocardial perfusion images in an ECG-gated mode. ECG-gated single-photon emission CT (SPECT) images allow for assessment of global LVEF, regional wall motion, and regional wall thickening at rest in patients with documented stress-induced wall motion and perfusion abnormalities.

In general, LVEF from gated SPECT agrees well with resting LVEF determined by other modalities. Quality assurance is important, however, because determinations of LVEF with gated SPECT may be less accurate, even invalidated, in the presence of an irregular heart rate, low count density, intense extracardiac radiotracer uptake adjacent to the LV, or a small LV.

Combined interpretation of perfusion and function on ECG-gated images substantially increases the confidence of interpretation. Taillefer and associates reported that the interpretation of stress and rest end-diastolic section, rather than summed ungated sections, may enhance the overall sensitivity for the detection of mild coronary artery disease.[102]

ECG-gated images are useful for recognizing artifactual defects caused by attenuation (breast and diaphragm) and thus are useful in the quality control of SPECT imaging. ECG-gated SPECT imaging is currently considered the state of the art of radionuclide myocardial perfusion imaging.

There are 3 important practical issues that need to be addressed in the evaluation of patients with presumed ischemic dysfunction, as follows:

Equilibrium radionuclide angiocardiography

Equilibrium radionuclide angiocardiography (ERNA) uses ECG events to define the temporal relationship between the acquisition of nuclear data and the volumetric components of the cardiac cycle. Sampling is performed repetitively over several hundred heartbeats, with physiologic segregation of nuclear data in accordance with their occurrence within the cardiac cycle.

Data are quantified and displayed in an endless-loop, cinegraphic format for additional qualitative visual interpretation and analysis. Equilibrium blood-pool labeling is achieved by use of99m Tc. Data are analyzed by use of a computer, generally with some operator interaction.

Analysis may be obtained in either the frame or list mode. Radionuclide data are collected and segregated temporally. The process generally requires 3-10 minutes for completion of each view. Following data acquisition, data from the several hundred individual beats are summed, processed, and displayed as a single representative cardiac cycle.

Data from the left anterior oblique (LAO) view are also used for qualitative analysis of global LV function. On this view, overlap of the 2 ventricles is minimal. In a count-based approach, LVEF and other indices of filling and ejection are calculated from the LV radioactivity preset at various points throughout the cardiac cycle.

RV function is best evaluated by first-pass techniques. The LAO view provides qualitative information concerning contraction of the septal, inferoapical, and lateral walls. The anterior view provides data concerning regional motion of the anterior and apical segments. The left lateral or left posterior oblique view provides optimal qualitative information concerning contraction of the inferior wall and posterobasal segment.

ERNA may easily be combined with additional physiologic stress testing or provocation, which may be in the form of either physiologic stress, such as exercise; pharmacologic stress, with the use of positive inotropic agents, such as dobutamine or isoproterenol; or psychological stress. The degree of confidence with ERNA is moderately high. False-positive and false-negative findings are infrequent.

Radionuclide ventriculography

Radionuclide ventriculography is most often performed as part of a myocardial perfusion scan to obtain accurate measurements of LV function and RV ejection fraction (RVEF), but it is unable to directly assess valvular abnormalities or cardiac hypertrophy and has limited value for assessing volumes or more subtle indices of systolic or diastolic function.[5, 7]

Iobenguane scanning for cardiac risk evaluation

In March 2013, the FDA approved the scintigraphic imaging agent iobenguane I 123 injection (AdreView) for the evaluation of myocardial sympathetic innervation in patients with NYHA class 2–3 heart failure with an LVEF of 35% or less. The radionuclide tracer, which functions molecularly as a norepinephrine analogue, can show relative levels of norepinephrine uptake in the cardiac sympathetic nervous system and contribute to risk stratification in heart failure patients. Improved reuptake of norepinephrine is associated with a better prognosis.[9]

Catheterization and Angiography

In patients with a nonischemic cardiomyopathy, perfusion deficits and segmental wall-motion abnormalities suggestive of coronary artery disease are commonly present on noninvasive imaging.[5] Only coronary angiography, however, can reliably demonstrate or exclude the presence of obstructed coronary vessels (see the following image).[5]


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A color-enhanced angiogram of the heart left shows a plaque-induced obstruction (top center) in a major artery, which can lead to myocardial infarctio....

According to the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA),[5] Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA),[8] and European Society of Cardiology (ESC),[7] cardiac catheterization and coronary angiography should be considered for patients with heart failure in the following situations:

For these patients, the procedures are frequently indicated when systolic dysfunction of unexplained cause is present on noninvasive testing or when normal systolic function with episodic heart failure suggests ischemically mediated LV dysfunction. However, although coronary angiography may be indicated in young patients to exclude the presence of congenital coronary anomalies, this procedure may not be as useful in older patients, because revascularization has not been shown to improve clinical outcomes in patients without angina.[5] Despite this, because revascularization may improve LV function, some experts suggest that coronary artery disease should be excluded whenever possible, especially in patients with diabetes mellitus or other states associated with silent myocardial ischemia.[5] The degree of confidence is moderately high.

Right-sided heart catheterization

Right heart catheterization is useful in providing important hemodynamic information about filling pressures, vascular resistance, and cardiac output when there is doubt about the patient's fluid status; in heart failure refractory to initial therapy; in the presence of significant hypotension (systolic blood pressure typically < 90 mm Hg or symptomatic low systolic blood pressure) and/or worsening renal function during initial treatment; and when heart transplantation or placement of a mechanical circulatory support device is being considered.[5] However, it plays a limited role in the diagnosis of heart failure, as studies evaluating right heart catheterization and overall improved outcomes have been essentially neutral.[104]

Normal right-sided hemodynamics include right atrial pressure less than 7 mm Hg, RV pressure less than 30/7 mm Hg, pulmonary pressure less than 30/18, pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (PCWP) less than 18 mm Hg, and cardiac index (CI) greater than 2.2 L/min/m2.

PCWP can be measured by using a pulmonary arterial catheter (Swan-Ganz catheter). This helps differentiate cardiogenic causes of decompensated heart failure from noncardiogenic causes, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which occurs secondary to injury to the alveolar-capillary membrane rather than to alteration in Starling forces. A PCWP exceeding 18 mm Hg in a patient not known to have chronically elevated left atrial pressure is indicative of cardiogenic decompensated heart failure. In patients with chronic pulmonary capillary hypertension, capillary wedge pressures exceeding 25 mm Hg are generally required to overcome the pumping capacity of the lymphatics and produce pulmonary edema.

Large V waves may be observed in the PCWP tracing in patients with significant mitral regurgitation because large volumes of blood regurgitate into a poorly compliant left atrium. This raises pulmonary venous pressure and may cause pulmonary edema.

Left-sided heart catheterization

Left-sided heart catheterization and coronary angiography should be undertaken when the etiology of heart failure cannot be determined by clinical or noninvasive imaging methods or when the etiology is likely to be due to acute myocardial ischemia or infarction. Coronary angiography is particularly helpful in patients with LV systolic dysfunction and known or suspected coronary artery disease in whom myocardial ischemia is thought to play a dominant role in the reduction of LV systolic function and the worsening of heart failure.

Endomyocardial Biopsy

Endomyocardial biopsy is indicated only when a specific diagnosis is suspected that would influence therapy in patients presenting with heart failure (see the image below). The Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) suggests that endomyocardial biopsy be considered in patients with rapidly progressive clinical heart failure or ventricular dysfunction, despite appropriate medical therapy, as well as in patients suspected of having myocardial infiltrative processes (eg, sarcoidosis, amyloidosis) or in patients with malignant arrhythmias out of proportion to their LV dysfunction (eg, sarcoidosis, giant cell myocarditis).[8]


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Histologic section of an autopsy myocardial specimen from a patient with long-standing hypertension and associated coronary artery disease. The slide ....

Assessment of Functional Capacity

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) indicates the 6-minute walk test is a good indicator of functional status and prognosis in patients with heart failure.[7] It evaluates distance walked, dyspnea index on a Borg scale from 0 to 10, oxygen saturation, and heart rate response to exercise. A normal value is walking more than 1500 feet. Patients who walk less than 600 feet have severe cardiac dysfunction and a worse short- and long-term prognosis.

Cardiopulmonary stress testing (maximal exercise stress testing with measurement of respiratory gas exchange) can help assess a patient’s chance of survival within the next year, as well as determine the need for referral for either cardiac transplantation or implantation of mechanical circulatory support. The ACC/AHA[5] and HFSA[8] do not recommend routine maximal exercise stress testing but indicate it may be useful in situations such as the following with measurement of gas exchange:

Values of peak oxygen consumption of less than 50% of predicted or less than 14 cc/kg/min reflect poor cardiac performance and a likelihood of 1-year survival less than 50%, facilitating referral for cardiac transplantation or mechanical circulatory device placement.[5, 6]

Approach Considerations

Medical care for heart failure (HF) includes a number of nonpharmacologic, pharmacologic, and invasive strategies to limit and reverse the manifestations of heart failure. Depending on the severity of illness, nonpharmacologic therapies include dietary sodium and fluid restriction; physical activity as appropriate; and attention to weight gain. Pharmacologic therapies include the use of diuretics, vasodilators, inotropic agents, anticoagulants, beta-blockers, and digoxin.

Invasive therapies for heart failure include electrophysiologic intervention such as cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), pacemakers, and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs); revascularization procedures such as coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) and percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI); valve replacement or repair; and ventricular restoration.

When progressive end-stage heart failure occurs despite maximal medical therapy, when the prognosis is poor, and when there is no viable therapeutic alternative, the criterion standard for therapy has been heart transplantation.[5] However, mechanical circulatory devices such as ventricular assist devices (VADs) and total artificial hearts (TAHs) can bridge the patient to transplantation; in addition, VADs are increasingly being used as permanent therapy.

Comorbidities to consider

Coronary artery disease

Patients with heart failure should be evaluated for coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart failure (see Etiology). Not only may this condition be the underlying cause in up to two thirds of heart failure patients with low ejection fraction, but coronary artery disease may also play a role in the progression of heart failure through mechanisms such as endothelial dysfunction, ischemia, and infarction, among others.[5]

Patients with coronary artery disease with modestly reduced ejection fraction and angina demonstrate symptomatic and survival improvement with coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) in studies[5] ; however, the studies did not include individuals with heart failure or those with severely reduced ejection fractions.[5] In patients with angina and ventricular dysfunction, evaluation with coronary angiography should not be delayed (see Catheterization and Angiography). Noninvasive cardiac testing is not recommended in patients with significant ischemic chest pain, as revascularization is advised in these patients independent of their degree of ischemia/viability.[5]

Although there are no reports of controlled trials evaluating heart failure without angina and their outcomes with coronary revascularization, surgical revascularization is recommended in those with significant left main stenosis and in those with extensive noninfarcted but hypoperfused and hypocontractile myocardium on noninvasive testing.[5] In patients with heart failure and reduced left ventricular ejection fraction but without angina, it has not yet been determined whether routine evaluation of possible myocardial ischemia/viability and coronary artery disease should be performed.[5]

For patients with heart failure from LV dysfunction without chest pain and without a history of coronary artery disease, coronary angiography may be useful in young patients to exclude congenital coronary anomalies. However, because clinical outcomes have not been shown to improve in patients without angina, coronary angiography may not be as useful in older patients for evaluating the presence of coronary artery disease.[5] Some experts nonetheless suggest excluding coronary artery disease whenever possible, particularly in the presence of diabetes or other states associated with silent myocardial ischemia, because LV function may show improvement with revascularization.[5]

In general, if coronary artery disease has already been excluded as the cause of abnormalities in LV function, it is not necessary to perform repeated evaluations for ischemia (invasive or noninvasive) provided the patient’s clinical status has not changed to suggest the development of ischemic disease.[5]

For more information, see the Medscape Reference articles Primary and Secondary Prevention of Coronary Artery Disease, Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease, and Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease.

Valvular heart disease may be the underlying etiology or an important aggravating factor in heart failure.[5, 7, 8] For more information, see the Medscape Reference article Valvular Surgery.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea has an increased prevalence in patients with heart failure and is associated with increased mortality due to further neurohormonal activation, although randomized, controlled data are lacking. Sleep apnea should be treated aggressively in heart failure patients.

A long-term study involving 283 heart failure patients who had an implanted cardiac resynchronization device with cardioverter-defibrillator concluded that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and/or central sleep apnea (CSA) are independently associated with an increased risk for ventricular arrhythmias requiring cardioverter-defibrillator therapies.[105]

Anemia

Anemia is also common in chronic heart failure. Whether anemia is a reflection of the severity of heart failure or contributes to worsening heart failure is not clear. Potential etiologies of anemia in heart failure involve poor nutrition, ACEIs, the RAAS, inflammatory cytokines, hemodilution, and renal dysfunction. Anemia in heart failure is associated with increased mortality.[106]

The ACC/AHA, HFSA, and ESC make no recommendations regarding the administration of iron to patients with heart failure, although the ACC/AHA noted that several small studies suggested a benefit in mild anemia and heart failure.[5] More and larger studies are needed.

Cardiorenal syndrome

Cardiorenal syndrome reflects advanced cardiorenal dysregulation manifested by acute heart failure, worsening renal function, and diuretic resistance. It is equally prevalent in patients with heart failure with normal ejection fraction (HFNEF) and those with LV systolic dysfunction. Worsening renal function is one of the 3 predictors of increased mortality in hospitalized patients with heart failure regardless of the LVEF.

Cardiorenal syndrome can be classified into the following 5 types[107] :

The pathophysiology of CR1 and CR2 is complex and multifactorial, involving neurohormonal activation (RAAS, sympathetic nervous system, arginine vasopressin, natriuretic peptides, adenosine receptor activation), low arterial pressure, and high central venous pressure, leading to lower transglomerular perfusion pressure and decreased availability of diuretics to the proximal nephron. This results in an increased reabsorption of sodium and water and poor diuretic response—hence, diuretic resistance despite escalating doses of oral or intravenous diuretics.

Treatment of cardiorenal syndrome in patients with heart failure is largely empirical, but it typically involves the use of combination diuretics, vasodilators, and inotropes as indicated.[108] Ultrafiltration is recommended for symptomatic relief by the ACC/AHA guidelines for patients with heart failure that is refractory to diuretic therapy.[5]

A sudden increase in creatinine can be seen after initiation of diuretic therapy and is often mistakenly considered evidence of overdiuresis or intravascular depletion (even in the presence of fluid overload). A common error in this situation is to decrease the dose of ACEI/ARB and/or diuretics or to even withdraw one of these agents. In fact, when diuresis or ultrafiltration is continued, patients demonstrate improved renal function, decreased total body fluid, and increased response to diuretics, as central venous pressure falls.

Low-dose dopamine has been used in combination with diuretic therapy, on the supposition that it can increase kidney perfusion. Data have been contradictory, however. In a randomized controlled study, Giamouzis et al found that the combination of low-dose furosemide and low-dose dopamine was equally as effective as high-dose furosemide for kidney function in patients with acute decompensated heart failure. In addition, patients who received dopamine and furosemide were less likely to have worsened renal function or hypokalemia at 24 hours.[109]

Use of nesiritide, a synthetic natriuretic peptide, to increase diuresis in these cases has not been studied. A meta-analysis of several trials using nesiritide suggests the potential of worsening renal function, although this has not been demonstrated in prospective trials. Results of the Acute Study of Clinical Effectiveness of Nesiritide in Decompensated Heart Failure (ASCEND-HF) trial suggest that, although nesiritide is safe, it does not provide additional efficacy when added to standard therapy.[110]

The Efficacy of Vasopressin Antagonism in Heart Failure Outcome Study with Tolvaptan (EVEREST) trial showed that the addition of the vasopressin antagonist tolvaptan to diuretic therapy facilitates diuresis in acute heart failure. However, tolvaptan had no impact on mortality or hospitalizations in this setting.[111]

Adenosine receptor antagonists have been proposed for protecting renal function in acute heart failure. However, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the adenosine A1 −receptor antagonist rolofylline demonstrated no benefit for patients hospitalized for acute heart failure with impaired renal function.[112]

A meta-analysis performed by Badve et al suggests that treatment with beta blockers was found to reduce all-cause mortality in patients with chronic kidney disease and systolic heart failure (risk ratio, 0.72).[113]

Atrial fibrillation

Many patients with heart failure also have atrial fibrillation, and the 2 conditions can adversely affect each other. However in the AFFIRM trial, there was no difference in stroke, heart failure exacerbation, or CV mortality in patients treated with rhythm control (amiodarone) and patients treated with rate control.[114] All of these patients require anticoagulation for stroke prevention. This can be achieved by using warfarin or a direct thrombin inhibitor (no need to follow protime).

In a prospective controlled study by Hsu et al, catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation in patients with heart failure and an LVEF of less than 45% resulted in a 21% increase in LVEF and improvement in LV dimensions, exercise capacity, symptoms, and quality of life.[115] At a mean of 12 months, 78% of patients remained in sinus rhythm without antiarrhythmic drugs.

A meta-analysis found that patients with LV systolic dysfunction who underwent catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation demonstrated significant improvements in LVEF, and their risk for recurrent atrial fibrillation or atrial tachycardia after catheter ablation was similar to that in patients with normal LV function after ablation. However, patients with LV systolic dysfunction were more likely to require repeat procedures.[116]

In contrast, MacDonald et al reported that in patients with advanced heart failure and severe LV systolic dysfunction, radiofrequency ablation for persistent atrial fibrillation resulted in long-term restoration of sinus rhythm in only 50% of cases.[117] Radiofrequency ablation also failed to improve such secondary outcomes as walking distance or quality of life, and the rate of related serious complications was 15%.

Nonpharmacologic Therapy

Patients with heart failure can benefit from attention to exercise, diet, and nutrition. Restriction of activity promotes physical deconditioning, so physical activity should be encouraged. However, limitation of activity is appropriate during acute heart failure exacerbations and in patients with suspected myocarditis. Most patients should not participate in heavy labor or exhaustive sports.[5]

A 2012 meta-analysis showed that aerobic exercise training, particularly long-term, can reverse left ventricular remodelling in clinically stable heart failure patients, while strength training had no effect on remodelling.[118]

Because nonadherence to diet and medication can have rapid and profound adverse effects on patients’ clinical status, close observation and follow-up are important aspects of care. Patient education and close supervision, including surveillance by the patient and family, can improve adherence. These measures also facilitate early detection of weight gain or slightly worsened symptoms, which often occur several days before major clinical episodes that require emergency care or hospitalization. Patients can then alert their clinicians, who may be able to prevent such episodes through prompt intervention.[5]

Dietary sodium restriction to 2-3 g/day is recommended. Fluid restriction to 2 L/day is recommended for patients with evidence of hyponatremia (Na < 130 mEq/dL) and for those whose fluid status is difficult to control despite sodium restriction and the use of high-dose diuretics. Caloric supplementation is recommended for patients with evidence of cardiac cachexia.

An analysis of concentrations of plasma eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, in the Cardiovascular Health Study identified plasma phospholipid EPA concentration as being inversely related to incident congestive heart failure.[119] These results support additional studies on the potential benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for primary prevention of heart failure.

The GISSI-HF (Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell'Infarto Miocardico) trial included nearly 7000 patients with systolic heart failure (any LV ejection fraction) who received either 1 g of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) or placebo daily and demonstrated that the PUFA regimen had a small but significant reduction in both all-cause mortality and all-cause mortality/hospitalization for cardiovascular causes.[120]

Pharmacologic Therapy

The 2013 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) updated guidelines,[121] 2010 Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) guidelines,[8] and the 2008 European Society of Cardiology (ESC)[7] guidelines, with varying levels of evidence, recommend the following:

Patients with heart failure and depressed LVEF are thought to have an increased risk of thrombus formation due to low cardiac output. Anticoagulation with an international normalized ratio (INR) goal of 2-3 is indicated in the presence of left ventricular (LV) thrombus, thromboembolic event with or without evidence of an LV thrombus, and paroxysmal or chronic atrial arrhythmias.[5, 7]

Routine anticoagulation with warfarin in patients with normal sinus rhythm, heart failure, and LV dysfunction has proven not to be superior to aspirin alone in decreasing death, myocardial infarction (MI), and stroke and was associated with an increased risk of bleeding in the Coumadin arm of the WATCH trial.[122]

The use of regularly scheduled intermittent intravenous infusions of positive inotropic drugs in a supervised outpatient setting has been proposed, but the ACC/AHA guidelines advise against this, given the lack of evidence to support efficacy and concerns about toxicity with an increase in mortality rate. Rather, the guidelines recommend infusion of a positive inotrope only as palliation in patients with end-stage disease who cannot be stabilized with standard medical treatment.[5]

The ACC/AHA guidelines advise that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), calcium channel blockers, and most antiarrhythmic agents may exacerbate heart failure and should be avoided in most patients.[5] NSAIDs can cause sodium retention and peripheral vasoconstriction and can attenuate the efficacy and enhance the toxicity of diuretics and ACEIs.

Antiarrhythmic agents can have cardiodepressant effects and may promote arrhythmia; only amiodarone and dofetilide have been shown not to adversely affect survival. Calcium channel blockers can worsen heart failure and may increase the risk of cardiovascular events; only the vasoselective calcium channel blockers have been shown not to adversely affect survival.[5]

In a community-based cohort study of 2891 digoxin-naive adults with newly diagnosed systolic heart failure, 18% of whom initiated treatment with digoxin, incident digoxin use was associated with significantly higher rates of death (14.2 versus 11.3 per 100 person-years) during a median of 2.5 years of follow-up. Digoxin use was not associated with a significant difference in the risk of hospitalization for heart failure. Results were similar when analyses were stratified by sex and use of beta-blockers. Digoxin currently occupies places in both US and European guidelines as no more than a second-line agent for systolic HF.

Acute Heart Failure Treatment

Most patients who present with acute heart failure have exacerbation of chronic heart failure, with only 15-20% having acute de novo heart failure. Approximately 50% of patients with acute heart failure have a preserved LVEF (>40%).[123, 124] Less than 5% of patients presenting with acute heart failure are hypotensive and require inotropic therapy.[125] Pulmonary edema is a medical emergency, but it is only one of the presentations of acute heart failure.

A systematic and expeditious approach to management of acute heart failure is required, starting in the outpatient setting (eg, emergency department, urgent care center, office), continuing during hospitalization, and extending after discharge to the outpatient setting. The clinician’s agenda in these cases is threefold:

Administration of oxygen, if oxygen saturation is less than 90%, and noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NIPPV) provides patients with respiratory support to avoid intubation. NIPPV has been shown to decrease the rate of intubation, hospital morality, and mechanical ventilation.[126, 127, 128, 129, 130] No difference has been noted between continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP). A prospective randomized trial that compared the use of noninvasive ventilation (NIV) and standard therapy with the use of standard therapy alone suggested that although NIV may improve dyspnea and respiratory acidosis, it does not appear to improve mortality.[131]

Medical therapy for heart failure patients, the majority who present with normal perfusion and evidence of congestion, focuses on the following goals:

Preload reduction results in decreased pulmonary capillary hydrostatic pressure and reduction of fluid transudation into the pulmonary interstitium and alveoli. Preload and afterload reduction provide symptomatic relief. Inhibition of the RAAS and sympathetic nervous system produces vasodilation, thereby increasing cardiac output and decreasing myocardial oxygen demand. While reducing symptoms, inhibition of the RAAS and neurohumoral factors also results in significant reductions in morbidity and mortality rates.[132, 133, 134] Diuretics are effective in preload reduction by increasing urinary sodium excretion and decreasing fluid retention, with improvement in cardiac function, symptoms, and exercise tolerance.[5]

Once congestion is minimized, a combination of 3 types of drugs (a diuretic, an ACEI or an ARB, and a beta-blocker) is recommended in the routine management of most patients with heart failure.[5] This combination can accomplish all of the above goals. ACEIs/ARBs and beta-blockers are generally used together. Beta-blockers are started in the hospital once euvolemic status has been achieved.

If there is evidence of organ hypoperfusion, use of inotropic therapies and/or mechanical circulatory support (eg, intra-aortic balloon pump, extracorporeal membrane oxygenator [ECMO], left ventricular assist device [LVAD]) and continuous hemodynamic monitoring are indicated. If arrhythmia is present and if uncontrolled ventricular response is thought to contribute to the clinical scenario of acute heart failure, either pharmacologic rate control or emergent cardioversion with restoration of sinus rhythm is recommended.

A study of 85 patients with hypertensive acute heart failure found that the IV calcium channel blocker clevidipine (Cleviprex) was safe and more effective than standard IV drugs for rapidly reducing blood pressure and improving dyspnea. In the 32 study patients who received clevidipine, dyspnea resolved completely in 3 hours, compared with 12 hours in the 53 patients who received usual care (mainly IV nitroglycerin or nicardipine). Target blood pressure range was achieved more often in patients receiving clevidipine (71% vs 37% for standard care; P =.002) and was reached sooner.[135]

Diuretics

Diuretics remain the cornerstone of standard therapy for acute heart failure. In such patients, IV administration of a loop diuretic (ie, furosemide, bumetanide, torsemide) is preferred initially because of potentially poor absorption of the oral form in the presence of bowel edema. In patients with hypertensive heart failure who have mild fluid retention, thiazide diuretics may be preferred because of their more persistent antihypertensive effects.[5]

Diuretics can be given by bolus or continuous infusion and in high or low doses. In a study of patients with acute decompensated heart failure, however, Felker et al found that there were no significant differences in effect on symptoms or renal function changes with furosemide given either by bolus or by continuous infusion; additionally, no differences were found with high versus low doses.[136] The dose and frequency of administration depend on the diuretic response 2-4 hours after the first dose is given. If the response is inadequate, then increasing the dose and/or increasing the frequency can help enhance diuresis.

Diuretic resistance is diagnosed if there is persistent pulmonary edema despite the following[137] :

Volume status, sodium levels, water intake, and hemodynamic status (for signs of poor perfusion) need to be reevaluated in case of diuretic resistance. Diuretic resistance is a known effect of long-term use of diuretics; some approaches to managing resistance to these agents include increasing the dose and/or frequency of the drug, restricting sodium or water intake, administering the drug as an IV bolus or IV infusion, and combining diuretics.[138, 139] In addition, diuretic resistance is an independent predictor of mortality in patients with chronic heart failure.[140] Eventually, alternative strategies, such as hemodialysis or ultrafiltration,[141] may be used to overcome it. Other agents, such as vasopressin antagonists and adenosine receptor blockers, can be used to assist diuretics.

Transition to oral diuretic therapy is made when the patient reaches a near-euvolemic state. The oral diuretic dose is usually equal to the IV dose. In most cases, 40 mg/day of furosemide is equivalent to 20 mg of torsemide and 1 mg of bumetanide. Weight, signs and symptoms, fluid balance, electrolyte levels, and renal function have to be monitored carefully on a daily basis.

Vasodilators

Vasodilators (eg, nitroprusside, nitroglycerin, or nesiritide) may be considered as an addition to diuretics for patients with acute heart failure for relief of symptoms. Vasodilators will decrease preload and/or afterload.

Nitrates are potent venodilators. They decrease preload and therefore decrease LV filling pressure and relieve shortness of breath. They also selectively produce epicardial coronary artery vasodilatation and help with myocardial ischemia. Although nitrates can be used in different forms (sublingual, oral, transdermal, IV), the most common route in acute heart failure is IV. Their use is limited by tachyphylaxis and headache.

Sodium nitroprusside is a potent, primarily arterial, vasodilator resulting in a very efficient afterload reduction and decrease of intracardiac filling pressures. This agent is particularly helpful for patients who present with severe pulmonary congestion in the presence of hypertension and severe mitral regurgitation. Sodium nitroprusside requires not only careful hemodynamic monitoring, often requiring indwelling catheters, but also monitoring for cyanide toxicity, especially in the presence of renal dysfunction. The drug should be titrated to off rather than abruptly stopped because of the potential for rebound hypertension.

Nesiritide (human brain natriuretic peptide analogue) is a vasodilator that was initially thought to alleviate dyspnea faster than nitroglycerin when used in combination with diuretics.[142, 143] This agent reduces pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (PCWP), right atrial pressure, and systemic vascular resistance but has no effect on heart contractility.

Ultrafiltration and refractory heart failure

In ultrafiltration, blood is removed from the body and run through a device that applies hydrostatic pressure across a semipermeable membrane to separate isotonic plasma water. Solutes cross the semipermeable membrane freely, so fluid can be removed without causing significant changes in the concentration of electrolytes and other solutes in serum.[144]

Ultrafiltration was shown to be an effective alternative to intravenous diuretics in the Ultrafiltration Versus Intravenous (IV) Diuretics for Patients Hospitalized for Acute Decompensated Heart Failure (UNLOAD) trial.[145] The ACC/AHA and ESC recommend the use of ultrafiltration for fluid reduction for patients with refractory heart failure that is not responsive to medical therapy.[5, 7]

Indications for hospitalization

A patient whose condition is refractory to standard therapy will often require hospitalization to receive IV diuretics, vasodilators, and inotropic agents. The 2010 Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) guidelines recommend hospitalization for acute heart failure in the presence of the following[8] :

Hospitalization should also be considered in the presence of the following[8] :

Most patients requiring hospitalization should be admitted to a telemetry bed or intensive care unit; a small percentage can be admitted to the floor or observation unit. The goal is to continue the diagnostic and therapeutic processes started in the office or emergency department. Treatment includes the following:

Invasive hemodynamic monitoring

Invasive hemodynamic monitoring is not indicated for stable patients with heart failure responding appropriately to medical therapy.[5, 104] The Evaluation Study of Congestive Heart Failure and Pulmonary Artery Catheterization Effectiveness [ESCAPE] trial showed no mortality or hospitalization benefit in such cases.[104] In patients with acute decompensated heart failure, the following are indications for invasive hemodynamic monitoring[5, 146] :

Clinical situations in which invasive hemodynamic monitoring is recommended to guide therapy include the following[5] :

Discharge

The patient must be on a stable oral regimen for at least 24 hours before discharge. Patients are ready for discharge when they meet the following criteria:

Before discharge, patient and family education should be completed, and extensive postdischarge instructions and follow-up in 3-7 days should be arranged. Refractory end-stage heart failure (ACC/AHA stage D, NYHA class IV) is often difficult to manage on an outpatient basis. Therefore, these patients may be referred to a heart failure program with expertise in management of refractory heart failure.[5]

To ensure compliance and understanding of a complex medical regimen, a follow-up phone call can be made 3 days after discharge by a nurse with training in heart failure. Ideally, the patient should be seen in clinic 7-10 days after discharge.

Different monitoring methods have been implemented by physicians in an attempt to reduce hospitalization for heart failure. The results have been equivocal, regardless of the severity of heart failure. No differences in death or hospitalization for heart failure have been found with either standard outpatient monitoring or intense telemonitoring for heart failure.[147, 148]

An investigational approach to monitoring is the use of a wireless implanted pulmonary artery pressure sensor. This device permits ambulatory monitoring and is designed to detect early-stage elevations in pulmonary artery pressure, so that appropriate medical intervention can be provided before worsening elevation leads to congestion. In a 6-month study in patients with NYHA class III heart failure, heart failure–related hospitalizations were approximately 30% lower with use of the device.[149]

Treatment of Heart Failure with Normal LVEF

Treatment of heart failure with normal left ventricular ejection fraction (HFNEF) is directed toward alleviating symptoms and addressing the underlying condition triggering HFNEF. Evaluation of cardiac ischemia or sleep apnea as potential precipitating factors should also be considered.

There is a paucity of randomized, controlled studies addressing HFNEF. Control of blood pressure, volume, or other risk factors is the mainstay of therapy.[5, 8] Lifestyle modification in important and may include the following:

Diuretic therapy is recommended to reduce fluid retention. However, patients must be monitored carefully to avoid hypotension.

ACEI/ARBs are used as indicated for patients with atherosclerotic disease, prior MI, diabetes mellitus, or hypertension. Use of candesartan, irbesartan, or perindopril has not been shown to decrease mortality but has produced a trend toward improved morbidity and decreased hospitalizations.[150] Some evidence shows that losartan and valsartan may promote LV reverse remodeling, with improvement in diastolic function and regression of left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH).

Beta-blockers are indicated for patients with prior MI or hypertension and for control of ventricular rate in those with atrial fibrillation. In the ADHERE registry, the subset of patients with HFNEF not treated with a beta-blocker had a higher mortality, potentially because of the higher incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD) in this population.[151]

Aldosterone receptor blockers are indicated for hypertension and to reduce myocardial fibrosis, although no randomized, controlled studies have been performed to evaluate their role in HFNEF. Calcium channel blockers may improve exercise tolerance via their vasodilatory properties, and nondihydropyridine calcium channel blockers are also used for ventricular rate control in patients with atrial fibrillation. Amlodipine has antianginal properties and is also indicated in hypertension.

Restoration of sinus rhythm should be considered if the patient remains symptomatic despite the above efforts. Use of digitalis or inotropes in patients with HFNEF is not indicated.

Treatment of Right Ventricular Heart Failure

Management of right ventricular (RV) failure includes treatment of the underlying cause; optimization of preload, afterload, and RV contractility; maintenance of sinus rhythm; and atrioventricular synchrony. Hypotension should be avoided, as it can potentially lead to further RV ischemia.

General measures should be applied, as follows:

Precipitating factors include the following:

Use of an ACEI/ARB is beneficial if RV failure is secondary to LV failure; the efficacy of these agents in isolated RV failure is not known. The same recommendation applies for use of beta-blockers. The role of nesiritide in RV failure is not well defined. Use of digoxin in RV failure associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) not associated with LV dysfunction appears not to improve exercise tolerance or RV ejection fraction. Treatment of pulmonary-induced RV failure is to address the correction of a primary pulmonary etiology and a decrease in RV afterload via specific pulmonary artery vasodilatory therapies (please see Primary Pulmonary Hypertension for treatment).

In patients with severe, hemodynamically compromising RV failure, inotropic therapy is administered, using dobutamine (2-5 mcg/kg/min), dobutamine and inhaled nitric oxide, or dopamine alone. Milrinone is preferred if the patient is tachycardic or on beta-blockers.

Anticoagulation indications are standard for evidence of intracardiac thrombus, thromboembolic events, pulmonary arterial hypertension, paroxysmal or persistent atrial fibrillation/flutter, and mechanical right-sided valves. Hypoxemia should be corrected, and positive pressure should be avoided when mechanical ventilation is needed.

Atrial septostomy can be considered as a palliative measure in patients with severe symptoms in whom standard therapy has failed. RV mechanical assist device is indicated only for RV failure secondary to LV failure or post–cardiac transplantation.

The prognosis in patients with RV failure depends on the etiology. Volume overload, pulmonary stenosis, and Eisenmenger syndrome are associated with a better prognosis. Decreased exercise tolerance predicts poor survival.

Electrophysiologic Intervention

Devices for electrophysiologic intervention in heart failure include pacemakers, cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices, and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs).

The 2010 Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) guidelines indicate that device therapy is an integral part of the treatment of heart failure and that considerations such as the nature and severity of the condition and any patient comorbidities are essential in optimizing the use of this therapy.[8] The Committee for Practice Guidelines (CPG) of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and the ACC/AHA/Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) emphasized the importance of medical devices in heart failure in their respective 2010 and 2012 focused updates on these interventions.[152, 153]

In addition, the AHA has published guidelines on heart device strategies, patient selection, and postoperative care. The guidance focuses on risk stratification and early referral of high-risk patients with heart failure to centers that can implant mechanical circulatory support devices (MCS).[154, 155]

In April 2014, the FDA approved 10 Medtronic biventricular pacemakers, some with defibrillators and some without, for use in patients with less severe systolic heart failure and atrioventricular (AV) block.[156, 157] Approval was based on a study of 691 patients with first-, second-, or third-degree AV block, New York Heart Association (NYHA) class I-III heart failure, and left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) less than 50%, in which biventricular pacing over three years reduced all-cause mortality by 26%, reduced heart failure-related urgent care, and increased LV end-systolic volume index by more than 15%.[156, 157]

Pacemakers

Maintaining a normal chronotropic response and AV synchrony may be particularly significant for patients with heart failure.[7] Because RV pacing may worsen heart failure due to an increase in ventricular dysynchrony, the current 2010 HFSA Practice Guidelines recommend against placement of a dual-chamber pacemaker in heart failure patients in the absence of symptomatic bradycardia or high-degree AV block.

The ACC/AHA heart failure guidelines recommend consideration of cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) for patients with heart failure who have indications for permanent pacing (eg, first implant, upgrading of a conventional pacemaker) and NYHA class III-IV symptoms or those who have an LVEF less than 35% despite being on optimal heart failure therapy and who may have a dependence on RV pacing. These recommendations now also include patients with NYHA class II symptoms and the presence of left-bundle-branch block with a QRS duration that is greater than or equal to 150 ms.[153]

Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators

The role of the ICD has rapidly expanded. Sudden death is 5-10 times more common in patients with heart failure than in the general population. ICD placement results in remarkable reductions in sudden death from ischemic and nonischemic sustained ventricular tachyarrhythmias in heart failure patients. Consequently, current AHA/ACC guidelines recommend an ICD in virtually all patients with an LVEF of less than 35%. (See also the Medscape Reference articles Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators and Pacemakers and Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators.)

The AHA/ACC and ESC recommend ICD placement for the following categories of heart failure patients[5, 7, 50] :

In moderately symptomatic heart failure patients with an LVEF of 35% or less, primary prevention with an ICD provides no benefit in some cases but substantial benefit in others. A model based on routinely collected clinical variables can be used to predict the benefit of ICD treatment, according to a study by Levy et al.[158] Using data from the placebo arm of the Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure Trial (SCD-HeFT) with their risk prediction model, Levy et al showed that patients could be classified into 5 groups on the basis of predicted 4-year mortality. In the treatment arm, ICD implantation decreased relative risk of sudden cardiac death by 88% in patients with the lowest baseline mortality risk but only by 24% in the highest-risk group. ICD treatment decreased relative risk of total mortality by 54% in the lowest-risk group but only by 2% in the highest-risk group.[158]

It is important to note that use of the SCD-HeFT model has not been prospectively validated for risk stratification in the decision for ICD implantation. More trials are needed.

Cardiac resynchronization therapy/biventricular pacing

Patients with heart failure and interventricular conduction abnormalities (roughly defined as those with a QRS interval >120 ms) are potential candidates for CRT by means of an inserted biventricular pacemaker. CRT aims to improve cardiac performance by restoring the heart’s interventricular septal electrical and mechanical synchrony.[8] Thus, it reduces presystolic mitral regurgitation and optimizes diastolic function by reducing the mismatch between cardiac contractility and energy expenditure.[159]

The ACC/AHA guidelines recommend resynchronization therapy for patients in sinus rhythm or atrial fibrillation with a QRS duration of 120 ms or longer (the greatest benefit is in patients with a QRS >150 ms) and an LVEF of 35% or less with persistent, moderate-to-severe heart failure (NYHA class III and functional NYHA class IV) despite optimal medical therapy.[5] A 2012 update of ACC/AHA/HRS guidelines on CRT expanded Class I indications to patients with NYHA class II symptoms and left-bundle-branch block of ≥150 ms.[153] Biventricular pacing may also be considered in the following patients:

The combination of biventricular pacing with ICD implantation (CRT-ICD) may be beneficial for patients with class II heart failure, an LVEF of 30% or less, and QRS duration of more than 150 ms. The MADIT-CRT and Resynchronization/Defibrillation for Ambulatory Heart Failure Trial (RAFT) investigators reported significant improvement in mortality and morbidity with CRT-ICD treatment versus ICD alone in this group of patients.[160]

Patients with unfavorable coronary sinus anatomy often cannot have a CRT properly placed adjacent to the posterolateral wall of the LV. A study by Giraldi et al suggests that in such patients, a mini-thoracotomy allows for proper lead placement.[161] These patients, when compared with patients who had typical transvenous placement (thus not allowing for preferred posterolateral wall lead placement), had improved outcomes in terms of improved EF and decreased end-systolic volume.[161]

Regarding technique, 3 cardiac leads are placed transvenously: an atrial lead; an RV lead; and an LV lead, which is threaded through the coronary sinus and out one of its lateral wall tributaries. Surgeons have assisted difficult transvenous LV placements by epicardially inserting LV leads using a number of techniques (eg, mini-thoracotomy, thoracoscopy, robotically assisted methods).

Clinical trials of cardiac resynchronization therapy

Several prospective, randomized trials have been performed to evaluate the effectiveness of CRT. The Multicenter InSync Randomized Clinical Evaluation (MIRACLE) study group demonstrated an improvement in NYHA functional class, quality of life, and LVEF.[162]

A reduction in the risk of heart failure events in patients treated with CRT plus an ICD over that of individuals treated with ICD alone was demonstrated in the Multicenter Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial with Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (MADIT-CRT). This randomized trial included 1820 patients with an EF of 30% or less, a QRS duration of 130 ms or more, and NYHA class I or II symptoms.[163]

In the MADIT-CRT, during an average follow-up of 2.4 years, death from any cause or a nonfatal heart failure event occurred in 17.2% of patients in the CRT-ICD group versus 25.3% of patients in the ICD-only group. In particular, there was a 41% reduction in the risk of heart failure events in patients in the CRT group, which was evident primarily in patients with a QRS duration of 150 ms or more. CRT was associated with a significant reduction in LV volume and improvement in the EF. No significant difference occurred between the 2 groups in the overall risk of death.[163]

In a follow-up to MADIT-CRT, women seemed to achieve a better response result from resynchronization therapy than men, with a significant 69% reduction in death or heart failure and a 70% reduction in heart failure alone. Those benefits were associated with consistently greater echocardiographic evidence of reverse cardiac remodeling.[164]

Additional findings from MADIT-CRT concerned the relative effects of metoprolol and carvedilol in heart failure patients with devices in place.[165] The key variables were (a) rate of hospitalization for heart failure or death and (b) incidence of ventricular arrhythmia.

Treatment with carvedilol yielded a significantly lower rate of hospitalization for heart failure or death than treatment with metoprolol (23% versus 30%), a reduction that was especially pronounced in patients undergoing CRT with implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (CRT-D), including those with left bundle-branch block (LBBB).[165] The incidence of ventricular arrhythmia was 26% with metoprolol and 22% with carvedilol. There was a clear dose-dependent relation for carvedilol, though not for metoprolol.

In addition to augmenting functional capacity, CRT also appears to favorably affect mortality. The Cardiac Resynchronization-Heart Failure (CARE-HF) trial, which studied CRT placement in patients with NYHA class III or IV heart failure due to LV systolic dysfunction and cardiac dyssynchrony, showed a 36% reduction in death with biventricular pacing.[166]

In the Comparison of Medical Therapy, Pacing, and Defibrillation in Heart Failure (COMPANION) trial, biventricular pacing reduced the rate of death from any cause or hospitalization for any cause by approximately 20%. The COMPANION trial was conducted in patients with NYHA class III or IV heart failure due to ischemic or nonischemic cardiomyopathies and a QRS interval of at least 120 ms. The addition of a defibrillator to biventricular pacing incrementally increased the survival benefit, resulting in a substantial 36% reduction in the risk of death compared with optimal pharmacologic therapy.[167]

In both the CARE-HF and the COMPANION studies, mortality was largely due to sudden death.[166, 167]

Noting that high percentages of right ventricular (RV) apical pacing could promote left ventricular (LV) systolic dysfunction, the BLOCK HF trial investigators attempted to determine whether biventricular pacing could improve outcomes in patients with atrioventricular (AV) block and New York Heart Association (NYHA) class I-III heart failure.[168, 169] A total of 691 volunteers received a pacemaker or cardioverter-defibrillator with leads in both ventricles (the LV lead was kept inactive in about half of participants). At follow-up (average, 37 months), 55.6% of the patients in the RV pacing group had died or had worsening heart failure, compared with 45.8% in the biventricular pacing group. The rate of adverse events was comparable in the 2 groups, and most problems occurred during the first month.

Revascularization Procedures

CABG and percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) are revascularization procedures that should be considered in selected patients with heart failure and CAD. The choice between CABG and PCI depends on the following factors:

In patients who are at low risk for CAD, findings from noninvasive tests such as exercise ECG, stress echocardiography, and stress nuclear perfusion imaging should determine whether subsequent angiography is indicated.[5, 7, 8]

Studies of medical versus surgical therapy for CAD have historically focused on patients with normal LV function. However, a significantly increased survival rate after coronary artery bypass surgery in a subset of patients with an LVEF of less than 50%, in comparison with the survival rate in patients who were randomly selected to receive medical therapy, was demonstrated in the Veterans Affairs Cooperative Study of Surgery. This survival benefit was particularly evident at the 11-year follow-up point (50% vs 38%).

Surgical revascularization prolonged survival to a greater degree than did medical therapy in most clinical and angiographic subgroups in the Coronary Artery Surgery Study (CASS) of patients with left main equivalent disease.[170] Of importance, this study demonstrated that surgical therapy markedly improved the 5-year cumulative survival rate in patients with an EF of less than 50% (80% vs 47%).[171]

These early randomized trials were limited by their inclusion of patients who had what is currently considered a good EF. That is, many patients referred for coronary revascularization live with EFs of less than 35%.

According to a number of studies, surgical revascularization can benefit patients who have ischemic heart failure and substantial areas of viable myocardium in the following ways:

For example, surgical revascularization confers a dramatic survival benefit in patients with a substantial amount of hibernating myocardium (ie, regions of the heart that are dysfunctional under ischemic conditions but that can regain normal function after blood flow is restored).[172, 173] For patients with at least 5 of 12 segments showing myocardial viability, revascularization has been found to result in a cardiac mortality of 3%, versus 31% for medically treated patients with viable myocardium.

Coronary artery bypass grafting

The role of CABG in patients with CAD and heart failure has been unclear. Clinical trials from the 1970s that established the benefit of CABG for patients with CAD excluded patients with an EF of less than 35%. In addition, major advances in medical therapy and cardiac surgery have taken place since these trials.[174]

Investigators from Yale and the University of Virginia, among many others, have published their results of CABG in patients with extremely poor LV function who were on the transplant waiting list. Elefteriades et al reported that in patients with EFs of less than 30% who had CABG, the survival rate was 80% at 4.5 years.[175] This figure approaches that of cardiac transplantation. Kron et al reported a similar 3-year survival rate, of 83%, in patients who underwent coronary artery bypass with an EF of less than 20%.[176]

STICH trial

The Surgical Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure (STICH) study found no significant difference between medical therapy alone and medical therapy plus CABG with respect to death from any cause (the primary study outcome).[174, 177, 178] STICH included 1212 patients with an EF of 35% or less and CAD amenable to CABG. Patients were randomized to either CABG with intensive medical therapy or medical therapy alone and followed up for a median of 56 months.

There was no difference between the treatment groups for all-cause mortality.[174] Owing to the lack of significant difference in the primary endpoint, the secondary endpoints should be viewed cautiously. Except for 30-day mortality, secondary study results favored CABG; compared with study patients assigned to medical therapy alone, patients assigned to CABG had lower rates of death from cardiovascular causes and of death from any cause or hospitalization for cardiovascular causes.[174] Surprisingly, the presence of viable, hibernating myocardium was not predictive of improved outcomes from CABG.[103]

Taken together, these findings suggest that in the absence of severe angina or left main disease, medical therapy alone remains a reasonable option for patients with an EF of 35% or less and CAD. Furthermore, current methods of assessing myocardial viability/hibernating myocardium may not accurately predict benefit from revascularization, although cardiac magnetic resonance imaging offers a promise of accuracy in identifying viable myocardium and predicting the success of revascularization in patients with low EFs.[100]

The adoption of techniques on and off cardiopulmonary bypass, as well as beating-heart techniques for revascularization, highlight the aim of treating high-risk patients.[179] The surgery in the STICH trial was performed with these modern surgical advantages. Preventive strategies include the increased use of bilateral mammary and arterial grafting.[180]

Valvular Surgery

Valvular heart disease may be the underlying etiology or an important aggravating factor in heart failure.[5, 8, 7] The ACC/AHA recommends that valve repair or replacement in patients with hemodynamically significant valvular stenosis or regurgitation and asymptomatic heart failure should be based on contemporary guidelines. In addition, the ACC/AHA indicates that such surgery should be considered for patients with severe aortic or mitral valve stenosis or regurgitation, even when ventricular function is impaired.

The ESC notes that although impaired LVEF is an important risk factor for higher perioperative and postoperative mortality, surgery may be considered in symptomatic patients with poor LV function.[7] However, it is essential that optimal conservative management of the patient's heart failure and any comorbidities be undertaken before surgery, with a thorough clinical and echocardiographic assessment that focuses on cardiovascular and noncardiovascular comorbidities.

Aortic valve replacement

Diseases of the aortic valve can frequently lead to the onset and progression of heart failure. Although the natural histories of aortic stenosis and aortic regurgitation are well known, patients are often followed up conservatively after they present with clinically significant heart failure.

Heart failure is a common indication for aortic valve replacement (AVR), but one must be cautious in patients with a low LVEF and possible aortic stenosis. Assessment of contractile reserve with dobutamine has been demonstrated as a reliable method to determine which patients with low EF and aortic stenosis may benefit from AVR.[181]

If no contractile reserve is present (a finding that suggests some ventricular reserve), the outcome with standard AVR is poor. In this situation, transplantation might be the only option, although the use of percutaneous valves, an apical aortic conduit, or a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) may offer an intermediate solution.

Indications

Decision making regarding valve surgery should not be delayed by medical treatment. Be cautious in using vasodilators (ACEIs, ARBs, and nitrates) in patients with severe aortic stenosis, as these agents may cause significant hypotension.[7]

Surgery is recommended in selected patients with symptomatic heart failure and severe aortic stenosis or severe aortic regurgitation, as well as in asymptomatic patients with severe aortic stenosis or severe aortic regurgitation and impaired LVEF (< 50%). This intervention may be considered in patients with a severely reduced valve area and LV dysfunction.

Patient survival

Of the 3 classic symptoms of aortic stenosis—syncope, angina, and dyspnea—dyspnea is the most robust risk factor for death. Only 50% of patients with dyspnea in this setting are still alive within 2 years.[182] Angina is associated with a mortality risk of 50% within 5 years, whereas syncope confers a 50% mortality risk in 3 years.

In contrast, the age-corrected survival rate for patients undergoing AVR for aortic stenosis is similar to that for the normal population.[183] Once patients develop severe LV dysfunction, however, the results of AVR are somewhat guarded.[184] Because of poor LV function, these patients are unable to develop significant transvalvular gradients (ie, low-output, low-gradient aortic stenosis).

A critical aspect of the decision for or against AVR is whether the ventricular dysfunction is truly valvular or reflects other forms of cardiomyopathy, such as ischemia or restrictive processes. Valvular dysfunction improves with AVR; other forms do not.

Precise measurement of the area of the aortic valve is difficult, because the calculated area is directly proportional to cardiac output. Also, the Gorlin constant varies at lower outputs. Therefore, in this situation, valvular areas might be considered critically small when at surgery the valve is found to be only moderately diseased.

Preoperative evaluation with dobutamine testing to increase contractile reserve or with vasodilator-induced stress echocardiography by using the continuity equation rather than the Gorlin formula can be helpful in making this distinction. The results can guide the physician or surgeon in determining whether the patient is a candidate for the relatively high-risk procedure.[185] Nevertheless, because of the possibility of ventricular recovery and lengthened patient survival, most patients with heart failure and aortic stenosis are offered valve replacement.[186]

Surgical timing

Timing of surgical intervention for aortic insufficiency is more challenging in patients just described than in patients with aortic stenosis. However, as before, once symptoms occur and once evidence of LV structural changes become apparent, morbidity and mortality due to aortic insufficiency increase.[187]

As with aortic stenosis, early intervention before the onset of severe LV dysfunction is crucial to improving the survival of patients with aortic insufficiency, as was shown in a retrospective review from the Mayo Clinic. In this study, 450 patients receiving AVR for aortic insufficiency were compared according to ranges of EF (< 35%, 35-50%, >50%). Although the group with severe dysfunction had an operative mortality of 14%, the EF improved, and the group's 10-year survival rate was 41%.[188, 189]

Mitral valve repair

Mitral valve regurgitation can either cause or result from chronic heart failure. Its presence is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.[190] In addition to frank rupture of the papillary muscle in association with acute MI, chronic ischemic cardiomyopathies result in migration of the papillary muscle as the ventricle dilates. This dilation causes tenting of the mitral leaflets, restricting their coaptation.

Dilated cardiomyopathies can have similar issues, as well as annular dilatation. In addition to mitral regurgitation, the alteration in LV geometry contributes to volume overload, increases LV wall tension, and leaves patients susceptible to exacerbations of heart failure.[191]

Mitral valve surgery in patients with heart failure has gained favor, because it abolishes the regurgitant lesion and decreases symptoms. The pathophysiologic rationales for repair or replacement are to reverse the cycle of excessive ventricular volume, to allow for ventricular unloading, and to promote myocardial remodeling.

Among other researchers, a group from Michigan has advocated mitral repair in the population with heart failure. Bolling and colleagues demonstrated that mitral valve repair increased the EF, improved NYHA classes from 3.9 to 2.0, and decreased the number of hospitalizations, although the results have not been able to be reproduced by other centers.[192] Additional effects with repair in these patients are the increase in coronary blood flow reserve afforded by the reduction in LV volume.[193]

Despite the potential benefits of mitral reconstruction surgery, a retrospective review showed no decrease in long-term mortality among patients with severe mitral regurgitation and significant LV dysfunction who underwent mitral valve repair.[194] Mitral valve annuloplasty was not predictive of clinical outcomes and did not improve mortality. Factors associated with lower mortality were ACEI use, beta-blockade, normal mean arterial pressures, and normal serum sodium concentrations. The results of this analysis were not overly surprising. For example, in most patients in this situation, heart failure is not due to flail leaflets but is secondary to ventricular dysfunction.

In evaluating studies of heart failure with mitral regurgitation, it is important to separate the etiology (eg, ischemic vs dilated) as well as the surgical approaches. Future trials must be designed to distinguish differences between various surgical strategies, such as annuloplasty, resuspension of the papillary muscle, secondary chordal transection, ventricular reconstruction, passive restraints, and chordal-sparing valve replacement. A paramount goal with these procedures is for the patient to have little or no residual mitral regurgitation.[195]

Indications

The ESC recommends considering mitral valve surgery in patients with heart failure and severe mitral valve regurgitation whenever coronary revascularization is an option.[7] Candidates would include the following[7] :

The HFSA indicates that isolated mitral valve repair or replacement for severe mitral regurgitation secondary to ventricular dilatation in the presence of severe LV systolic dysfunction is not generally recommended.[8]

CRT should be considered in eligible patients with functional mitral regurgitation, as it may improve LV geometry and papillary muscle dyssynchrony and may reduce mitral regurgitation.[7]

Annuloplasty

Treatment of cardiomyopathy-associated mitral regurgitation most commonly involves the insertion of either a complete or a partial band attached to the annulus of the mitral valve. Thus, mitral repair deals with only 1 aspect of the patient's overall pathophysiologic condition. That is, annuloplasty rings may assist with tenting of the leaflet, but they do not address displacement of the papillary muscle with ventricular scarring.[196] In many patients, the underlying problem (ie, primary myopathy) continues unabated.

In general, ischemic mitral regurgitation is a ventricular problem. Many operations allow for coaptation and no mitral regurgitation when the patient leaves the operating room. However, as the left ventricle continues to dilate, mitral regurgitation often recurs. Therefore, it is overambitious to say that annuloplasty cures this condition. As a result, many other approaches have been attempted (eg, chordal cutting, use of restraint devices, papillary relocation). However, results have been mixed.

Mitral valve replacement

If repair is deemed improbable, mitral replacement should be performed. Traditional mitral valve replacement includes complete resection of the leaflets and the chordal attachments. This destruction of the subvalvular apparatus results in ventricular dysfunction. In patients with mitral regurgitation and heart failure, preservation of the chordal attachments to the ventricle with valve replacement might provide results similar to, or even better than, those of annuloplasty.[197, 198]

Although the benefits in terms of quality of life (decreased heart failure) might not portend increased survival in these high-risk patients,[199, 200] they likely keep low-EF mitral valve interventions in the armamentarium of surgeons who manage heart failure.

An emerging approach to functional and degenerative mitral valve regurgitation is percutaneous mitral valve repair, using devices such as the MitraClip system. The EVEREST (Endovascular Valve Edge-to-Edge Repair Study II) randomized trial reported low rates of morbidity and mortality and reduction of acute mitral regurgitation to less than 2+ in the majority of patients, with sustained freedom from death, surgery, or recurrent mitral regurgitation in a substantial proportion of patients.[201]

Ventricular Restoration

After a transmural MI occurs, the ventricle pathologically remodels from its normal elliptical shape to a spherical shape. This change in geometry is in part responsible for the constellation of symptoms associated with HF and decreased survival.[202, 203]

Several ventricular restoration techniques exist. All aim to correct the above-described pathologic alteration in geometry. Most approaches involve incising and excluding nonviable myocardium with either patch or primary reconstruction to decrease ventricular volume.

The Batista procedure (reduction left ventriculoplasty) was designed with the intent of providing ventricular restoration, but it was associated with high failure rates. Although the initial enthusiasm for ventricular resection to treat nonischemic dilated cardiomyopathies has faded, a long-established finding is that resection of dyskinetic segments associated with LV aneurysms can increase patients' functional status and prolong life.[204, 205]

The success of early lytic and percutaneous therapy for acute MI has decreased the incidence of true LV aneurysms. As such, ventricular restoration now focuses on excluding relatively subtle regions of akinetic myocardium.

Benefits from ventricular restoration using the technique Dor described were reported in 2004 by the International Reconstructive Endoventricular Surgery Returning Torsion Original Radius Elliptical Shape to the Left Ventricle (RESTORE) group.[206] The investigators reported that among the patients studied, EFs increased from 29.6% to 39.5%, the end-systolic volume index decreased, and NYHA functional classes improved from 67% class III/IV before surgery to 85% class I/II after surgery.

The major study of ventricular reconstruction has been the STICH trial. The major study of ventricular reconstruction has been the STICH trial.[207] One thousand patients with an ejection fraction of less than 35%, coronary artery disease that was amenable to CABG, and dominant anterior left ventricular dysfunction that was amenable to surgical ventricular reconstruction were randomly assigned to undergo either CABG alone or CABG with surgical ventricular reconstruction (SVR). The median follow-up was 48 months. SVR reduced the end-systolic volume index by 19%, as compared with a reduction of 6% with CABG alone. Cardiac symptoms and exercise tolerance improved to a similar degree in both groups. However, no significant difference was observed in death from any cause and hospitalization for cardiac causes. On the basis of these results, SVR cannot be recommended for routine use in patients with ischemic cardiomyopathy and dominant anterior left ventricular dysfunction.

Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation

In some cases of extreme cardiopulmonary failure (ie, ACC/AHA stage D), the only recourse is complete support with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). ECMO provides both oxygenation and circulation of blood, allowing the lungs and heart time to recover. Unlike cardiopulmonary bypass, whose duration of use is measured in hours, ECMO can be used for 3-10 days.

For ECMO, one cannula is placed percutaneously via the right jugular vein or femoral vein into the right atrium, or it is placed surgically into the right atrial appendage, and another cannula is placed arterially either in the femoral artery or in the aortic arch. The drained venous blood is pumped through the ECMO device, where it is oxygenated, warmed, and anticoagulated. It is then returned to the arterial circulation.

ECMO devices can be used for short-term circulatory support in patients who are expected to recover from a major cardiac insult. Despite encouraging results with ECMO for the management of cardiogenic shock, most patients requiring circulatory assistance can be helped with ventricular support alone.

Ventricular Assist Devices

Ventricular assist devices (VADs) are invaluable tools in the treatment of heart failure. A number of these devices are available to support the acutely or chronically decompensated heart (ie, ACC/AHA stage D). Depending on the particular device used, the right ventricle and left ventricle can be assisted with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a right VAD (RVAD), or a biventricular assist device (BiVAD). An alternative term for a VAD is a ventricular assist system (VAS).[208, 209]

In concept, LVADs, RVADs, and BiVADs are similar. Blood is removed from the failing ventricle and diverted into a pump that delivers blood to either the aorta (in the case of an LVAD) or the pulmonary artery (in the case of an RVAD). An exception is the Impella (Abiomed, Inc). This device is inserted percutaneously into the left ventricle; it draws blood from the left ventricle and expels it into the ascending aorta.

LVADs can often be placed temporarily. In patients with acute, severe myocarditis or those who have undergone cardiotomy, this approach can serve as a bridge to recovery, unloading the dysfunctional heart and perhaps allowing reverse remodeling; in patients with end-stage heart failure, it can serve as a bridge to heart transplantation,[7, 8, 152] allowing them to undergo rehabilitation and possibly go home before transplantation.

Long-term use (ie, destination therapy rather than bridge therapy) may be a consideration when no definitive procedure is planned.[7] Patients with severe heart failure who are not transplant candidates and who otherwise would die without treatment are candidates for lifetime use of VADs. Destination therapy with LVADs is superior to medical therapy in terms of quantity and quality of life, according to the Randomized Evaluation of Mechanical Assistance for the Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure (REMATCH) trial and several later studies.[210, 211]

In the United States, several Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved options are available for bridging the patient to recovery and transplantation. These options continue to change and evolve. Some examples include are as follows:

The HeartMate LV assist systems are the only LVADs that are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for destination therapy. Several other devices are actively being studied in the United States for use as destination therapy, such as the DeBakeyVAD (MicroMed Cardiovascular, Inc) and the Impella Recover (Abiomed, Inc).

In addition, Jarvik 2000 Flowmaker (Jarvik Heart, Inc), MiFlow VAD (WorldHeart Inc), and PediaFlow VAD (WorldHeart Inc) are actively involved in clinical trials.

The HeartMate XVE LVAD (Thoratec) does not require warfarin anticoagulation, unlike another well-known first-generation pulsatile pump, the Novacor LVAD (WorldHeart). The newer axial-flow pumps (eg, HeartMate II LVAS, Jarvik 2000, HeartAssist 5 Pediatric VAD) are relatively small and easy to insert, and they decrease morbidity; however, they do require anticoagulation.

Potential complications of VADs include mechanical breakdown, infection, bleeding, and thromboembolic events. Despite these potential drawbacks, however, the survival rate for patients receiving VADs is roughly 70%. This rate is impressive given the severity of illness in this cohort of patients. Furthermore, the evolving technology raises a host of clinical and physiologic questions that, when studied and answered, continue to advance the field.

Selected trials

In the REMATCH study, survival rates of medically treated and LVAD-treated patients were, respectively, 25% and 52% at 1 year and 8% and 23% at 2 years.[212] The study offered the first prospective, randomized data of very ill, non–transplant-eligible patients with heart failure receiving optimal medical therapy versus an early-generation HeartMate LVAD. In addition to survival advantage, LVAD patients had improvements in several measures of quality of life.

Modifications in technique and perioperative care have decreased the rates of LVAD-related morbidity and mortality observed in the REMATCH trial.[213] Although REMATCH was a single study in very high risk patients, the data serve as proof of concept for the future development of VAD technologies.

Despite the need for an external energy source, most patients can use mechanical circulatory devices in the outpatient setting. Many patients have lived productive lives for longer than 4-6 years with their original device (depending on the device).

Starling et al used INTERMACS (Interagency Registry for Mechanically Assisted Circulatory Support) data to determine that following postmarket approval by the FDA, the HeartMate II LVAS, a continuous-flow LVAD, continues to have excellent results as a bridge to heart transplantation relative to other types of LVADs in the following measures[214] :

In another study, Ventura et al used a large national data registry to compare posttransplant outcomes between pulsatile-flow (HeartMate XVE [HeartMate I]) and continuous-flow (HeartMate II) LVADs as bridges to transplantation and found similar 1- and 3-year survival rates but less risk of early allograft rejection and sepsis with the HeartMate II device.[215]

Patients with class IV stage D heart failure who are symptomatic despite optimal medical heart failure therapy for 45 of 60 days or who require inotropic support for 14 days or IABP support for 7 days and have no contraindication for anticoagulation are eligible for implantation on LVAD HM II as destination therapy if they are not eligible or if they do not desire cardiac transplantation. The INTERMACS registry (a national database for patients with advanced heart failure receiving mechanical circulatory support) has established a patient profile (1-7) that determines urgency to implantation and assesses risk and survival at 90 days.

Recommendations for clinical management of continuous-flow LVAD were published in 2010, assisting providers with standardized care for this patient population.[216] Bleeding, infection, and stroke are postimplant complications, and death may occur due to right heart failure, sepsis, or stroke. A multidisciplinary approach to LVAD implantation is needed, as destination therapy identifies patients at high risk for complications and the need to optimize these patients medically before surgery. In a recent report from INTERMACS, 1-year survival for destination-therapy patients was 61% for pulsatile devices and 74% for continuous-flow devices.[217]

Heart Transplantation

Selected patients with severe heart failure, debilitating refractory angina, ventricular arrhythmia, or congenital heart disease that cannot be controlled despite pharmacologic, medical device, or alternative surgical therapy should be evaluated for heart transplantation.[8] The patient must be well informed, motivated, and emotionally stable; have a good social support network; and be capable of complying with intensive medical treatment.[7]

Since Christiaan Barnard performed the first orthotopic heart transplantation in 1967, the world has seen tremendous advancement in the field of cardiac transplantation. For patients with progressive end-stage heart failure despite maximal medical therapy who have a poor prognosis and no viable alternative form of treatment,[7] heart transplantation has become the criterion standard for therapy.[5]

Compared with patients who receive only medical therapy, transplant recipients have fewer rehospitalizations; marked functional improvements; enhanced quality of life; more gainful employment; and longer survival, with 50% surviving 10 years postoperatively.[218] Heart transplantation is associated with a 1-year survival rate of 83%; subsequently, survival decreases in a linear manner by approximately 3.4% per year.

Careful selection of donors and recipients is critical for ensuring good outcomes. In addition, transplant teams must strive to minimize potential perioperative dangers, including ischemic times, pulmonary hypertension, mechanical support, and cardiogenic shock.

For more information, see the Medscape Reference article Heart Transplantation.

Indications

According to the ACC/AHA, absolute indications for heart transplantation include hemodynamic compromise following heart failure, including the following scenarios[5] :

Relative indications for heart transplantation include the following[5] :

In the absence of other indications, however, the following are not sufficient indications for heart transplantation[5] :

Contraindications

The ESC indicates that heart transplantation is contraindicated in patients with the following conditions[7] :

Note that the HFSA and ESC indicate that cardiomyoplasty and partial left ventriculectomy (Batista operation) is not recommended to treat heart failure, nor should it be used as an alternative to heart transplantation.[7, 8]

Coronary graft atherosclerosis

The Achilles heel of the long-term success of heart transplantation is the development of coronary graft atherosclerosis, the cardiac version of chronic rejection. Coronary graft atherosclerosis is uniquely different from typical coronary artery disease in that it is diffuse and is usually not amenable to revascularization.

Shortage of donor hearts

In the United States, fewer than 2500 heart transplantation procedures are performed annually.[219] Each year, an estimated 10-20% of patients die while awaiting a heart transplant. Of the 5 million people with heart failure, approximately 30,000 to 100,000 have such advanced disease that they would benefit from transplantation or mechanical circulatory support.[220] This disparity between the number of patients needing transplants and the availability of heart donors has refocused efforts to find other ways to support severely failing hearts.

Total Artificial Heart

The creation of a suitable total artificial heart (TAH) for orthotopic implantation has been the subject of intense investigation for decades.[221] In 1969, Dr. Denton Cooley implanted the Liotta TAH (which is no longer made) into a high-risk patient after failing to wean the patient off cardiopulmonary bypass after LV aneurysm repair. The patient was sustained until, after 3 days, a donor heart became available, but the patient subsequently died of pneumonia and multiple organ failure.[222]

Compared with LVADs, the TAH has several potential advantages, including the ability to assist patients with severe biventricular failure; a lack of device pocket and thus a lessened risk of infection; and the opportunity to treat patients with systemic diseases (eg, amyloidosis, malignancy) who are not otherwise candidates for transplantation.[223, 224, 225, 226, 227]

At present, 2 TAHs are receiving the most attention:

The SynCardia TAH is a structural cousin of the original Jarvik-7 TAH (Jarvik Heart, Inc) that was implanted into patient Barney Clark with great publicity in 1982. In 2004, investigators reported data that allowed this device to receive FDA approval for use as a bridge to transplantation.

The AbioCor TAH involves a novel method of transcutaneous transmission of energy, freeing the patient from external drivelines. The patient exchanges the external battery packs, which can last as long as 4 hours. This TAH is unique in that it is the first TAH to use coils to transmit power across the skin; therefore, no transcutaneous conduits are needed. This feature allows for the advantages of a closed system, which potentially reduces sources of infection, a known complication of earlier devices.

The first clinical implantation of this TAH was performed in July 2001. Before the end of 2004, 14 patients had received this device as part of a trial in patients whose expected survival was less than 30 days. Although all subsequently died, 4 patients were ambulatory after surgery, and 2 were discharged from the hospital to a transitional-care setting. One of the discharged patients was discharged on postoperative day 209. A limitation of the AbioCor TAH is its large size, which permits its implantation in only 50% of men and 20% of women. In 2006, the FDA approved the Abiocor TAH as a permanent TAH for humanitarian uses.

The SynCardia and AbioCor TAHs require recipient cardiectomy before implantation. The devices are similar in that they are sewn to atrial cuffs and to the great vessels after the native heart is explanted.

Despite more than 40 years of effort, the clinical application of artificial-heart technology is still immature. However, with the approval of the SynCardia device and with new efforts to create small pumps, TAHs will ultimately be routine components of heart failure surgery for very sick patients with heart failure and biventricular failure.

Medication Summary

The goals of pharmacotherapy for heart failure are to reduce morbidity and to prevent complications. Along with oxygen, medications assisting with symptom relief include: (1) diuretics, which reduce edema by reduction of blood volume and venous pressures; (2) vasodilators, for preload and afterload reduction; (3) digoxin, which can cause a small increase in cardiac output; (4) inotropic agents, which help to restore organ perfusion and reduce congestion; (5) anticoagulants, to decrease the risk of thromboembolism; (6) beta-blockers, for neurohormonal modification, left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) improvement, arrhythmia prevention, and ventricular rate control; (7) angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs), for neurohormonal modification, vasodilatation, and LVEF improvement; (8) angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), also for neurohormonal modification, vasodilatation, and LVEF improvement; and (9) analgesics, for pain management.

Drugs that can exacerbate heart failure should be avoided, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), calcium channel blockers (CCBs), and most antiarrhythmic drugs (except class III). NSAIDs can cause sodium retention and peripheral vasoconstriction, and they can attenuate the efficacy and enhance the toxicity of diuretics and ACEIs. CCBs can worsen heart failure and may increase the risk of cardiovascular events; only the vasoselective CCBs have been shown not to adversely affect survival. Antiarrhythmic agents can have cardiodepressant effects and may promote arrhythmia; only amiodarone and dofetilide have been shown not to adversely affect survival.

Carvedilol (Coreg, Coreg CR)

Clinical Context:  Carvedilol is a nonselective beta- and alpha1-adrenergic blocker. It does not appear to have intrinsic sympathomimetic activity. Carvedilol at the target dose of 25 mg twice daily has been shown to reduce mortality in clinical trials of heart failure patients with reduced ejection fraction.

Class Summary

Beta-blockers inhibit the sympathomimetic nervous system and block alpha1-adrenergic vasoconstrictor activity. These agents have moderate afterload reduction properties and cause slight preload reduction. In addition to decreasing mortality rates, beta-blockers also reduce hospitalizations and the risk of sudden death; improve LV function and exercise tolerance; and reduce heart failure functional class. Although other beta-blockers with similar pharmacologic properties might hypothetically be beneficial in heart failure, the target doses have not been identified in clinical trials.

Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL)

Clinical Context:  Metoprolol is a selective beta1-adrenergic blocker at lower doses. It inhibits beta2-receptors at higher doses. It does not have intrinsic sympathomimetic activity. The long-acting formulation (metoprolol succinate) at a target dose of 200 mg daily has been shown to reduce mortality in a clinical trial of patients with heart failure and low ejection fraction.

Bisoprolol (Zebeta)

Clinical Context:  Bisoprolol is a highly selective beta1-adrenergic receptor blocker that decreases the automaticity of contractions. Bisoprolol at the target dose of 10 mg daily has been shown to reduce mortality in a clinical trial of patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction, but is not approved for heart failure use in the US.

Class Summary

Certain beta-1 blockers are selective in blocking beta-1 adrenoreceptors. These agents are used in heart failure to reduce heart rate and blood pressure.

Captopril

Clinical Context:  Captopril prevents conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, a potent vasoconstrictor, resulting in lower aldosterone secretion. Captopril at a target dose of 25 mg three times daily has been shown to improve survival in patients with low ejection fraction after myocardial infarction.

Enalapril (Vasotec)

Clinical Context:  Enalapril prevents conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, a potent vasoconstrictor, resulting in increased levels of plasma renin and a reduction in aldosterone secretion. It helps control blood pressure and proteinuria. Enalapril decreases the pulmonary-to-systemic flow ratio in the catheterization laboratory and increases systemic blood flow in patients with relatively low pulmonary vascular resistance. It has a favorable clinical effect when administered over a long period. It helps prevent potassium loss in distal tubules. The body conserves potassium; thus, less oral potassium supplementation is needed. Enalapril at a target dose of 10 mg twice daily has been shown to improve survival in patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction.

Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)

Clinical Context:  Lisinopril prevents conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, a potent vasoconstrictor, resulting in increased levels of plasma renin and a reduction in aldosterone secretion. Lisinopril at a target dose of 10 mg daily has been shown to reduce mortality after myocardial infarction.

Ramipril (Altace)

Clinical Context:  Ramipril prevents conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, a potent vasoconstrictor, resulting in increased levels of plasma renin and a reduction in aldosterone secretion. Ramipril at a target dose of 5 mg twice daily has been shown to reduce mortality in patients with heart failure after myocardial infarction.

Quinapril (Accupril)

Clinical Context:  Quinapril prevents conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, a potent vasoconstrictor, resulting in increased levels of plasma renin and a reduction in aldosterone secretion.

Class Summary

Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) prevent conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, which results in lower aldosterone secretion. Use of ACEIs increases survival, improves symptoms, and decreases repeat hospitalizations.

Losartan (Cozaar)

Clinical Context:  Losartan blocks the vasoconstrictor and aldosterone-secreting effects of angiotensin II at tissue receptor sites. It may induce more complete inhibition of the renin-angiotensin system than ACE inhibitors, and it does not affect the response to bradykinin (less likely to be associated with cough and angioedema). These agents are used in patients unable to tolerate ACE inhibitors. Losartan has not been demonstrated to improve survival in heart failure.

Valsartan (Diovan)

Clinical Context:  Valsartan is a prodrug that produces direct antagonism of angiotensin II receptors. It displaces angiotensin II from the AT1 receptor and may lower blood pressure by antagonizing AT1-induced vasoconstriction, aldosterone release, catecholamine release, arginine vasopressin release, water intake, and hypertrophic responses. It may induce more complete inhibition of the renin-angiotensin system than ACE inhibitors, does not affect the response to bradykinin, and is less likely to be associated with cough and angioedema. It is used in patients unable to tolerate ACE inhibitors. Valsartan at a target dose of 160 mg twice daily has been shown to improve survival in patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction.

Candesartan (Atacand)

Clinical Context:  Candesartan blocks the vasoconstriction and aldosterone-secreting effects of angiotensin II. It may induce more complete inhibition of the renin-angiotensin system than ACE inhibitors, does not affect the response to bradykinin, and is less likely to be associated with cough and angioedema. Use candesartan in patients unable to tolerate ACE inhibitors. Candesartan at a target dose of 32 mg daily has been shown to improve survival in patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction.

Irbesartan (Avapro)

Clinical Context:  Irbesartan blocks the vasoconstrictor and aldosterone-secreting effects of angiotensin II at tissue receptor sites. It may induce more complete inhibition of the renin-angiotensin system than ACE inhibitors, and it does not affect the response to bradykinin (less likely to be associated with cough and angioedema). Irbesartan has not been shown to improve survival in heart failure.

Azilsartan (Edarbi)

Clinical Context:  Azilsartan blocks the vasoconstrictor and aldosterone-secreting effects of angiotensin II at tissue receptor sites. It may induce more complete inhibition of the renin-angiotensin system than ACE inhibitors, and it does not affect the response to bradykinin (less likely to be associated with cough and angioedema).

Class Summary

Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) are reasonable first-line therapy for patients with mild to moderate heart failure symptoms and left ventricular (LV) dysfunction when patients are already taking these agents for other indications. ARBs block the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) by competitive inhibition of the AT1 receptor, thereby decreasing afterload and preventing LV remodeling. The use of ARBs increases survival and decreases hospitalization rates, but these agents are not superior to angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs). ARBs can also be used as add-on therapy for patients who have refractory heart failure symptoms despite optimal heart failure therapy.

Milrinone

Clinical Context:  Milrinone is a type 3 phosphodiesterase inhibitor that increases inotropy, chronotropy, and lusitropy, acting via cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) to increase the intramyocardial adenosine triphosphate (ATP). It is a potent vasodilator agent, being a venous and arterial vasodilator, and it is used in patients with pulmonary hypertension. Milrinone can be used in the presence of a beta-blocker. Milrinone is thought to create less tachycardia, because it does not directly stimulate beta-receptors.

Digoxin (Lanoxin)

Clinical Context:  Digoxin is a cardiac glycoside with direct inotropic effects, in addition to indirect effects, on the cardiovascular system. It acts directly on cardiac muscle, increasing myocardial systolic contractions. Indirect actions result in increased carotid sinus nerve activity and enhanced sympathetic withdrawal for any given increase in mean arterial pressure. It is used to improve symptoms associated with HF by enhancing cardiac contractility. Although digoxin does not confer a survival benefit, it has reduced the number of hospitalizations that occur as a result of worsening heart failure.

Dopamine

Clinical Context:  Dopamine is a naturally occurring catecholamine that acts as a precursor to norepinephrine. It stimulates both adrenergic and dopaminergic receptors. The hemodynamic effect is dose dependent. Low-dose use is associated with dilation within renal and splanchnic vasculature, resulting in enhanced diuresis. Moderate doses enhance cardiac contractility and the heart rate. Higher doses cause increased afterload through peripheral vasoconstriction. Administer by continuous intravenous infusion. It is usually used in severe heart failure and is reserved for patients with moderate hypotension (eg, systolic blood pressure 70-90 mm Hg). Typically, moderate or higher doses are used.

Dobutamine

Clinical Context:  Dobutamine, a beta-receptor agonist, increases inotropy and chronotropy and decreases afterload, thereby improving end-organ perfusion. It produces vasodilation and increases the inotropic state. At higher dosages, it may cause increased heart rate, exacerbating myocardial ischemia. Careful hemodynamic and patient monitoring is required.

Class Summary

Inotropic agents such as milrinone, digoxin, dopamine, and dobutamine are used to increase the force of cardiac contractions. Intravenous positive inotropic agents should only be used in inpatient settings — and then only in patients who manifest signs and symptoms of low cardiac output syndrome (volume overload with evidence of organ hypoperfusion).

Nitroprusside sodium (Nitropress)

Clinical Context:  Nitroprusside sodium is a potent balanced arterial and venous vasodilator, resulting in a very efficient decrease of intracardiac filling pressures. It requires careful hemodynamic monitoring using indwelling catheters and monitoring for cyanide toxicity, especially in the presence of renal dysfunction. It is particularly helpful for patients who present with severe pulmonary congestion in the presence of hypertension and severe mitral regurgitation. The drug should be titrated down to cessation rather than abruptly stopped, owing to the rebound potential.

Hydralazine

Clinical Context:  Hydralazine decreases systemic resistance through direct vasodilation of arterioles. A hydralazine and nitrate combination reduces preload and afterload. Combinations of hydralazine and nitrates are recommended to improve outcomes for African Americans with moderate-to-severe symptoms of heart failure on optimal medical therapy with ACEIs/ARBs, beta-blockers, and diuretics.

Class Summary

In addition to diuretic therapy, vasodilators are recommended as first-line therapy for patients with acute heart failure in the absence of hypotension, for relief of symptoms. Vasodilators decrease preload and/or afterload as well as reduce systemic vascular resistance (SVR).

Nitroglycerin (Nitrostat, Nitro-Dur, Nitrolingual, Nitro-Time, NitroMist, Minitran)

Clinical Context:  Nitroglycerin is first-line therapy for patients who are not hypotensive. It provides excellent and reliable preload reduction. Higher doses provide mild afterload reduction. It has rapid onset and offset (both within minutes), allowing rapid clinical effects and rapid discontinuation of effects in adverse clinical situations. It produces vasodilation and increases inotropic activity of the heart. At higher dosages, it may exacerbate myocardial ischemia by increasing the heart rate.

Isosorbide dinitrate (Dilatrate-SR, Isordil Titradose)

Clinical Context:  Isosorbide dinitrate relaxes vascular smooth muscle by stimulating intracellular cyclic GMP. It decreases left ventricular pressure (preload) and arterial resistance (afterload). By decreasing left ventricular pressure and dilating arteries, it reduces cardiac oxygen demand. Chronic use of isosorbide dinitrate as a sole vasodilating agent is not recommended.

Isosorbide dinitrate and Hydralazine (BiDil)

Clinical Context:  This is a fixed-dose combination of isosorbide dinitrate (20 mg/tab), a vasodilator with effects on both arteries and veins, and hydralazine (37.5 mg/tab), a predominantly arterial vasodilator. It is indicated for heart failure in black patients, based in part on results from the African American Heart Failure Trial. Two previous trials in the general population of patients with severe heart failure found no benefit but suggested a benefit in black patients. Black patients showed a 43% reduction in mortality rate, a 39% decrease in hospitalization rate, and a decrease in symptoms from heart failure.

Isosorbide mononitrate (Monoket)

Clinical Context:  Isosorbide mononitrate causes relaxation of vascular smooth muscle and consequent dilatation of peripheral arteries and veins. Dilation of the veins promotes peripheral pooling of blood and decreases venous return to the heart, thereby reducing left ventricular end-diastolic pressure and pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (preload). Arteriolar relaxation reduces systemic vascular resistance, systolic arterial pressure, and mean arterial pressure (afterload).

Class Summary

Nitrates improve hemodynamic effects in heart failure by decreasing left ventricular filling pressure and systemic vascular resistance. These agents also result in a slight improvement on cardiac output.

Nesiritide (Natrecor)

Clinical Context:  Nesiritide is a recombinant DNA form of hBNP that dilates veins and arteries. hBNP binds to the particulate guanylate cyclase receptor of vascular smooth muscle and endothelial cells. Binding to the receptor causes an increase in cGMP, which serves as a second messenger to dilate veins and arteries. It reduces PCWP and improves dyspnea in patients with acutely decompensated HF.

Class Summary

Human B-type natriuretic peptides (hBNPs) such as nesiritide are used in patients with acutely decompensated heart failure. These agents reduce pulmonary capillary wedge pressure and improve dyspnea.

Furosemide (Lasix)

Clinical Context:  Furosemide increases the excretion of water by interfering with the chloride-binding cotransport system, which, in turn, inhibits sodium and chloride reabsorption in the ascending loop of Henle and distal renal tubule. The dose must be individualized to the patient. Depending on the response, administer furosemide at small dose increments (20-200 mg) until desired diuresis occurs.

Torsemide (Demadex)

Clinical Context:  Torsemide acts from within the lumen of the thick ascending portion of the loop of Henle, where it inhibits the sodium, potassium, and chloride carrier system. It increases urinary excretion of sodium, chloride, and water, but does not significantly alter the glomerular filtration rate, renal plasma flow, or acid-base balance. Torsemide is roughly twice as potent as furosemide on a milligram basis. Depending on the response, administer furosemide at small dose increments (10-100 mg) until desired diuresis occurs.

Bumetanide

Clinical Context:  Bumetanide increases the excretion of water by interfering with the chloride-binding cotransport system, which, in turn, inhibits sodium, potassium, and chloride reabsorption in the ascending loop of Henle. These effects increase urinary excretion of sodium, chloride, and water, resulting in profound diuresis. Renal vasodilation occurs following administration, renal vascular resistance decreases, and renal blood flow is enhanced. Bumetanide is roughly four times as potent as furosemide on a milligram basis. Depending on the response, administer bumetanide at small dose increments (0.5-5 mg) until desired diuresis occurs.

Class Summary

Diuretics remain the mainstay of therapy and the current standard of care for acute heart failure. First-line diuretic therapy is a loop diuretic (furosemide, bumetanide, torsemide) in the lowest effective dose, either once or twice a day — although it can be used up to 3-4 times a day — depending on the individual response and renal function. Response to diuretic therapy often depends on bioavailability of the drug (better on an empty stomach) and nutritional level (loop diuretics are bound to proteins for renal delivery).

Hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide)

Clinical Context:  Hydrochlorothiazide inhibits reabsorption of sodium in the distal tubules, causing increased excretion of sodium, water, potassium, and hydrogen ions.

Indapamide

Clinical Context:  Indapamide has a diuretic effect that is localized at the proximal segment of the distal tubule of the nephron. Similar to other diuretics it may enhance sodium, chloride and water excretion.

Chlorthalidone (Thalitone)

Clinical Context:  Chlorthalidone inhibits the reabsorption of sodium in distal tubules, causing increased excretion of sodium and water, as well as potassium and hydrogen ions.

Chlorothiazide (Diuril)

Clinical Context:  Chlorothiazide affects the distal renal tubular mechanism of electrolyte reabsorption. It increases excretion of sodium and chloride in approximately equivalent amounts. Natriuresis may be accompanied by some loss of potassium and bicarbonate

Class Summary

If patients with heart failure do not have a response to treatment with loop diuretics, a thiazide diuretic such as hydrochlorothiazide or metolazone can be added 30 minutes before adminstration of the loop diuretic to enhance the response. Thiazide diuretics inhibit reabsorption of sodium and chloride in the cortical thick ascending limb of the loop of Henle and the distal tubules. They also increase potassium and bicarbonate excretion as well as decrease calcium excretion and uric acid retention. Combination diuretic therapy should be monitored closely for development of hypovolemia, hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia, and hyponatremia.

Metolazone (Zaroxolyn)

Clinical Context:  Metolazone increases excretion of sodium, water, potassium, and hydrogen ions by inhibiting reabsorption of sodium in the distal tubules. Metolazone may be more effective in patients with impaired renal function.

Class Summary

Metolazone is a diuretic of the quinazoline class and has thiazidelike properties. This agent interferes with the renal tubular mechanism of electrolyte reabsorption.

Spironolactone (Aldactone)

Clinical Context:  Spironolactone is used for the management of edema resulting from excessive aldosterone excretion. It competes with aldosterone for receptor sites in the distal renal tubules, increasing water excretion while retaining potassium and hydrogen ions. Spironolactone at a target dose of 25 mg has been shown to improve survival in patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction.

Amiloride (Midamor)

Clinical Context:  Amiloride is unrelated chemically to other known antikaliuretic or diuretic agents. It is a potassium-conserving (antikaliuretic) drug that, compared with thiazide diuretics, possesses weak natriuretic, diuretic, and antihypertensive activity.

Triamterene (Dyrenium)

Clinical Context:  Triamterene is a potassium-sparing diuretic with relatively weak natriuretic properties. It exerts its diuretic effect on the distal renal tubules by inhibiting the reabsorption of sodium in exchange for potassium and hydrogen. It increases sodium excretion and reduces excessive loss of potassium and hydrogen associated with hydrochlorothiazide.

Class Summary

The potassium-sparing diuretics interfere with sodium reabsorption at the distal tubules, resulting in decreased potassium secretion. These agents have a weak diuretic and antihypertensive effect when used alone. The potassium-sparing diuretics spironolactone or triamterene are usually used in addition to the loop diuretics. Note that careful monitoring of renal function and potassium is necessary for all diuretics.

Epinephrine (Adrenaclick, Adrenalin, EpiPen, EpiPen Jr.)

Clinical Context:  Epinephrine is an alpha-agonist and its effects include increased peripheral vascular resistance, reversed peripheral vasodilatation, systemic hypotension, and vascular permeability. Beta2-agonist effects include bronchodilatation, chronotropic cardiac activity, and positive inotropic effects.

Norepinephrine (Levophed)

Clinical Context:  Norepinephrine is a naturally occurring catecholamine with potent alpha-receptor and mild beta-receptor activity. It stimulates beta1- and alpha-adrenergic receptors, resulting in increased cardiac muscle contractility, heart rate, and vasoconstriction. It increases blood pressure and afterload. Increased afterload may result in decreased cardiac output, increased myocardial oxygen demand, and cardiac ischemia. It is generally reserved for use in patients with severe hypotension (eg, systolic blood pressure < 70 mm Hg) or hypotension that is unresponsive to other medications.

Class Summary

In the presence of significant hypotension, adrenergic agonists are used to improve cardiac output and organ perfusion.

Eplerenone (Inspra)

Clinical Context:  Eplerenone selectively blocks aldosterone at the mineralocorticoid receptors in epithelial (eg, kidney) and nonepithelial (eg, heart, blood vessels, and brain) tissues; thus, it decreases blood pressure and sodium reabsorption. It is indicated to improve survival for heart failure or left LV dysfunction following acute MI. Compared with placebo, a significant risk reduction (15%) has been observed. The EMPHASIS-HF trial has shown that patients with systolic heart failure with mild symptoms treated with eplerenone have a significant reduction in cardiovascular death or heart failure hospitalization when compared with placebo.

Class Summary

Aldosterone antagonists are weak diuretics that reduce mortality and the risk of sudden death by blocking the effects of aldosterone, thereby decreasing myocardial and vascular inflammation and collagen production. This, in turn, prevents apoptosis, decreases stimulation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and acts as a membrane stabilizer, thus preventing arrhythmia. Aldosterone antagonists are recommended for patients who have moderately severe and severe heart failure and reduced left ventricular (LV) systolic function (Randomized Aldactone Evaluation Study [RALES]) who can be carefully monitored for preserved renal function and normal potassium concentration.

Warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven)

Clinical Context:  Warfarin interferes with hepatic vitamin K–dependent carboxylation. It is used for the prophylaxis and treatment of thromboembolic disorders.

Dabigatran (Pradaxa)

Clinical Context:  Competitive, direct thrombin inhibitor. Thrombin enables fibrinogen conversion to fibrin during the coagulation cascade, thereby preventing thrombus development. Inhibits both free and clot-bound thrombin and thrombin-induced platelet aggregation.

Class Summary

Patients with heart failure and depressed left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction are thought to have an increased risk of thrombus formation due to low cardiac output. Hospitalized patients with heart failure are at a high risk for venous thromboembolism and should receive prophylaxis. Anticoagulation with an international normalized ratio (INR) goal of 2-3 is indicated in the presence of: (1) an LV thrombus, (2) a thromboembolic event with or without evidence of an LV thrombus, and (3) paroxysmal or chronic atrial arrhythmias.

Amlodipine (Norvasc)

Clinical Context:  Amlodipine has antianginal and antihypertensive effects. It blocks the post-excitation release of calcium ions into cardiac and vascular smooth muscle, thereby inhibiting the activation of ATPase on myofibril contraction. The overall effect is reduced intracellular calcium levels in cardiac and smooth muscle cells of the coronary and peripheral vasculature, resulting in dilatation of the coronary and peripheral arteries. It also increases myocardial oxygen delivery in patients with vasospastic angina.

Nifedipine (Adalat CC, Afeditab CR, Nifediac CC, Nifedical XL, Procardia, Procardia XL)

Clinical Context:  Nifedipine relaxes coronary smooth muscle and produces coronary vasodilation, which in turn, improves myocardial oxygen delivery. Sublingual administration is generally safe, despite theoretical concerns.

Felodipine

Clinical Context:  Felodipine is a dihydropyridine calcium channel blocker. It inhibits the influx of extracellular calcium across the myocardial and vascular smooth muscle cell membranes. The resultant decrease in intracellular calcium inhibits the contractile processes of the smooth muscle cells, resulting in dilation of coronary and systemic arteries.

Class Summary

Generally, calcium channel blockers (CCBs) should be avoided. CCBs do not play a direct role in the management of heart failure; however, these agents may be used to treat other conditions, such as hypertension or angina in heart failure patients.

CCBs may be used in heart failure with normal left ventricular ejection fraction. These drugs may also improve exercise tolerance via their vasodilatory properties.

Morphine sulfate (Astramorph, Avinza, DepoDur, Duramorph, Infumorph 200, Infumorph 500, Kadian, MS Contin, Oramorph SR, Roxanol)

Clinical Context:  Morphine is the drug of choice for narcotic analgesia because of its reliable and predictable effects, safety profile, and ease of reversibility with naloxone. Morphine sulfate administered intravenously may be dosed in a number of ways and commonly is titrated until the desired effect is obtained. Morphine sulfate also decreases preload in heart failure and relieves dyspnea.

Class Summary

Opioid analgesics such as morphine sulfate may help to relieve patients’ anxiety, distress, and dyspnea.

Author

Ioana Dumitru, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Founder and Medical Director, Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Program, University of Nebraska Medical Center; Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Mathue M Baker, MD, Cardiologist, BryanLGH Heart Institute and Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Henry H Ooi, MB, MRCPI, Director, Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Program, Nashville Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Assistant Professor of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP Professor of Emergency Medicine, Professor of Internal Medicine, Program Director, Emergency Medicine, Case Medical Center, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Heart Association, American Thoracic Society, Arkansas Medical Society, New York Academy of Medicine, New York AcademyofSciences,and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

David FM Brown, MD Associate Professor, Division of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Vice Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital

David FM Brown, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

William K Chiang, MD Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, New York University School of Medicine; Chief of Service, Department of Emergency Medicine, Bellevue Hospital Center

William K Chiang, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, American College of Medical Toxicology, and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Joseph Cornelius Cleveland Jr, MD Associate Professor, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

Joseph Cornelius Cleveland Jr, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American College of Cardiology, American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Surgeons, American Geriatrics Society, American Physiological Society, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, Association for Academic Surgery, Heart Failure Society of America, International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, Phi Beta Kappa, Society of Critical Care Medicine, Society of Thoracic Surgeons, and Western Thoracic Surgical Association

Disclosure: Thoratec Heartmate II Pivotal Tria; Grant/research funds Principal Investigator - Colorado; Abbott Vascular E-Valve E-clip Honoraria Consulting; Baxter Healthcare Corp Consulting fee Board membership; Heartware Advance BTT Trial Grant/research funds Principal Investigator- Colorado; Heartware Endurance DT trial Grant/research funds Principal Investigator-Colorado

Shamai Grossman, MD, MS Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Director, The Clinical Decision Unit and Cardiac Emergency Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Shamai Grossman, MD, MS is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

John D Newell Jr, MD Professor of Radiology, Head, Division of Radiology, National Jewish Health; Professor, Department of Radiology, University of Colorado School of Medicine

John D Newell Jr, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Radiology, American Roentgen Ray Society, American Thoracic Society, Association of University Radiologists, Radiological Society of North America, and Society of Thoracic Radiology

Disclosure: Siemens Medical Grant/research funds Consulting; Vida Corporation Ownership interest Board membership; TeraRecon Grant/research funds Consulting; Medscape Reference Honoraria Consulting; Humana Press Honoraria Other

Craig H Selzman, MD, FACS Associate Professor of Surgery, Surgical Director, Cardiac Mechanical Support and Heart Transplant, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Utah School of Medicine

Craig H Selzman, MD, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Association for Thoracic Surgery, American College of Surgeons, American Physiological Society, Association for Academic Surgery, International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, Society of Thoracic Surgeons, Southern Thoracic Surgical Association, and Western Thoracic Surgical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Gary Setnik, MD Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Mount Auburn Hospital; Assistant Professor, Division of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Gary Setnik, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, National Association of EMS Physicians, and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: SironaHealth Salary Management position; South Middlesex EMS Consortium Salary Management position; ProceduresConsult.com Royalty Other

Brett C Sheridan, MD, FACS Associate Professor of Surgery, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

George A Stouffer III, MD Henry A Foscue Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cardiology, Director of Interventional Cardiology, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, Chief of Clinical Cardiology, Division of Cardiology, University of North Carolina Medical Center

George A Stouffer III, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Cardiology, American College of Physicians, American Heart Association, Phi Beta Kappa, and Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Salary Employment

Additional Contributors

Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP Professor of Emergency Medicine, Professor of Internal Medicine, Program Director, Emergency Medicine, Case Medical Center, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Heart Association, American Thoracic Society, Arkansas Medical Society, New York Academy of Medicine, New York AcademyofSciences,and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

David FM Brown, MD Associate Professor, Division of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Vice Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital

David FM Brown, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

William K Chiang, MD Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, New York University School of Medicine; Chief of Service, Department of Emergency Medicine, Bellevue Hospital Center

William K Chiang, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, American College of Medical Toxicology, and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Joseph Cornelius Cleveland Jr, MD Associate Professor, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

Joseph Cornelius Cleveland Jr, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American College of Cardiology, American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Surgeons, American Geriatrics Society, American Physiological Society, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, Association for Academic Surgery, Heart Failure Society of America, International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, Phi Beta Kappa, Society of Critical Care Medicine, Society of Thoracic Surgeons, and Western Thoracic Surgical Association

Disclosure: Thoratec Heartmate II Pivotal Tria; Grant/research funds Principal Investigator - Colorado; Abbott Vascular E-Valve E-clip Honoraria Consulting; Baxter Healthcare Corp Consulting fee Board membership; Heartware Advance BTT Trial Grant/research funds Principal Investigator- Colorado; Heartware Endurance DT trial Grant/research funds Principal Investigator-Colorado

Shamai Grossman, MD, MS Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Director, The Clinical Decision Unit and Cardiac Emergency Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Shamai Grossman, MD, MS is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

John D Newell Jr, MD Professor of Radiology, Head, Division of Radiology, National Jewish Health; Professor, Department of Radiology, University of Colorado School of Medicine

John D Newell Jr, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Radiology, American Roentgen Ray Society, American Thoracic Society, Association of University Radiologists, Radiological Society of North America, and Society of Thoracic Radiology

Disclosure: Siemens Medical Grant/research funds Consulting; Vida Corporation Ownership interest Board membership; TeraRecon Grant/research funds Consulting; Medscape Reference Honoraria Consulting; Humana Press Honoraria Other

Craig H Selzman, MD, FACS Associate Professor of Surgery, Surgical Director, Cardiac Mechanical Support and Heart Transplant, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Utah School of Medicine

Craig H Selzman, MD, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Association for Thoracic Surgery, American College of Surgeons, American Physiological Society, Association for Academic Surgery, International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, Society of Thoracic Surgeons, Southern Thoracic Surgical Association, and Western Thoracic Surgical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Gary Setnik, MD Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Mount Auburn Hospital; Assistant Professor, Division of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Gary Setnik, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, National Association of EMS Physicians, and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: SironaHealth Salary Management position; South Middlesex EMS Consortium Salary Management position; ProceduresConsult.com Royalty Other

Brett C Sheridan, MD, FACS Associate Professor of Surgery, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

George A Stouffer III, MD Henry A Foscue Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cardiology, Director of Interventional Cardiology, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, Chief of Clinical Cardiology, Division of Cardiology, University of North Carolina Medical Center

George A Stouffer III, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Cardiology, American College of Physicians, American Heart Association, Phi Beta Kappa, and Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Salary Employment

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This chest radiograph shows an enlarged cardiac silhouette and edema at the lung bases, signs of acute heart failure.

This chest radiograph shows an enlarged cardiac silhouette and edema at the lung bases, signs of acute heart failure.

A 28-year-old woman presented with acute heart failure secondary to chronic hypertension. The enlarged cardiac silhouette on this anteroposterior (AP) radiograph is caused by acute heart failure due to the effects of chronic high blood pressure on the left ventricle. The heart then becomes enlarged, and fluid accumulates in the lungs (ie, pulmonary congestion).

This magnetic resonance image shows a scar in the anterior cardiac wall, which may be indicative of a previous myocardial infarction (MI). MIs can precipitate heart failure.

This electrocardiogram (ECG) is from a 32-year-old female with recent-onset congestive heart failure and syncope. The ECG demonstrates a tachycardia with a 1:1 atrial:ventricular relationship. It is not clear from this tracing whether the atria are driving the ventricles (sinus tachycardia) or the ventricles are driving the atria (ventricular tachycardia).At first glance, sinus tachycardia in this ECG might be considered with severe conduction disease manifesting as marked first-degree atrioventricular block with left bundle branch block. Looking more closely, electrocardiographic morphology gives clues to the actual diagnosis of VT. These clues include the absence of RS complexes in the precordial leads, a QS pattern in V6, and an R wave in aVR. The patient proved to have an incessant VT associated with dilated cardiomyopathy.

Electrocardiogram depicting ventricular fibrillation in a patient with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). Ventricular fibrillation is often due to ischemic heart disease and can lead to myocardial infarction and/or sudden death.

This electrocardiogram (ECG) shows evidence of severe left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) with prominent precordial voltage, left atrial abnormality, lateral ST-T abnormalities, and a somewhat leftward QRS axis (–15º). The patient had malignant hypertension with acute heart failure, accounting also for the sinus tachycardia (blood pressure initially 280/180 mmHg). The ST-T changes seen here are nonspecific and could be due to, for example, LVH alone or coronary artery disease. However, the ECG is not consistent with extensive inferolateral myocardial infarction. Image courtesy of http://ecg.bidmc.harvard.edu .

This electrocardiogram shows an extensive acute/evolving anterolateral myocardial infarction pattern, with ST-T changes most apparent in leads V2-V6, I, and aVL. Slow R wave progression is also present in leads V1-V3. The rhythm is borderline sinus tachycardia with a single premature atrial complex (PAC) (4th beat). Note also the low limb lead voltage and probable left atrial abnormality. Left ventriculography showed diffuse hypokinesis as well as akinesis of the anterolateral and apical walls, with an ejection fraction estimated at 33%. Image courtesy of http://ecg.bidmc.harvard.edu.

This electrocardiogram shows a patient is having an evolving anteroseptal myocardial infarction secondary to cocaine. There are Q waves in leads V2-V3 with ST segment elevation in leads V2-V5 associated with T-wave inversion. Also noted are biphasic T-waves in the inferior leads. These multiple abnormalities suggest occlusion of a large left anterior descending artery that wraps around the apex of the heart (or multivessel coronary artery disease). Image courtesy of http://ecg.bidmc.harvard.edu .

This chest radiograph shows an enlarged cardiac silhouette and edema at the lung bases, signs of acute heart failure.

A 28-year-old woman presented with acute heart failure secondary to chronic hypertension. The enlarged cardiac silhouette on this anteroposterior (AP) radiograph is caused by acute heart failure due to the effects of chronic high blood pressure on the left ventricle. The heart then becomes enlarged, and fluid accumulates in the lungs (ie, pulmonary congestion).

Hypokinesis of the anteroseptal wall observed during echocardiography in a patient presenting with an acute anteroseptal myocardial infarction, which can precipitate heart failure.

Cervicocephalic fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) can lead to complications such as hypertension and chronic kidney failure, which can lead to heart failure. In this color Doppler and spectral Doppler ultrasonographic examination of the left internal carotid artery (ICA) in a patient with cervicocephalic FMD, stenoses of about 70% is seen in the ICA.

Cervicocephalic fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) can lead to complications such as hypertension and chronic kidney failure, which, in turn, can lead to heart failure. Nodularity in an artery is known as the string-of-beads sign, and it can be seen this color Doppler ultrasonographic image from a 51-year-old patient with low-grade stenosing FMD of the internal carotid artery (ICA).

Echocardiogram of a patient with severe pulmonic stenosis. This image shows a parasternal short axis view of the thickened pulmonary valve. Pulmonic stenosis can lead to pulmonary hypertension, which can result in hepatic congestion and in right-sided heart failure.

This video is an echocardiogram of a patient with severe pulmonic stenosis. The first segment shows the parasternal short axis view of the thickened pulmonary valve. The second segment shows the presence of moderate pulmonary insufficiency (orange color flow). AV = aortic valve, PV = pulmonary valve, PA = pulmonary artery, PI = pulmonary insufficiency.

Apical 4-chamber echocardiogram in a 37-year-old man with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), a congenital cardiomyopathy. Note the prominent trabeculae and abnormal wall motion of the dilated right ventricle.ARVD can result in ventricular and supraventricular arrhythmias. The most significant of all rhythms associated with heart failure are the life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias.

Apical long-axis echocardiogram in a young female patient with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD) illustrates end-diastolic measurement of a dilated right ventricular outflow tract (RVOT). Ao = aorta, LA = left atrium, LV = left ventricle, RV = right ventricle.

Apical 4-chamber end-diastolic echocardiogram in a patient with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD) shows dilatation of the right ventricle (RV) (arrow) and prominent trabeculae. Ao = aorta, LA = left atrium, LV = left ventricle.

Transesophageal echocardiogram in an apical 3-chamber view with color Doppler interrogation of the mitral valve revealing aliasing, which is consistent with increased gradient across the mitral valve secondary to stenosis. Also shown in this image, a posteriorly directed jet of severe mitral regurgitation. Valvular heart disease, such as mitral stenosis and mitral regurgitation, can precipitate heart failure.

Transthoracic echocardiogram demonstrating severe mitral regurgitation with heavily calcified mitral valve and prolapse of the posterior leaflet into the left atrium.

Transesophageal echocardiogram demonstrating prolapse of both mitral valve leaflets during systole in a patient with mitral regurgitation.

Transesophageal echocardiogram with continuous wave Doppler interrogation across the mitral valve demonstrating an increased mean gradient of 16 mm Hg consistent with severe mitral stenosis.

This magnetic resonance image shows a scar in the anterior cardiac wall, which may be indicative of a previous myocardial infarction (MI). MIs can precipitate heart failure.

Cardiac magnetic resonance image (CMRI), short axis view. This image shows right ventricular dilatation, trabucular derangement, aneurysm formation and dyskinetic free wall in a patient with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia.

A color-enhanced angiogram of the heart left shows a plaque-induced obstruction (top center) in a major artery, which can lead to myocardial infarction (MI). MIs can precipitate heart failure.

Histologic section of an autopsy myocardial specimen from a patient with long-standing hypertension and associated coronary artery disease. The slide shows myocardial hypertrophy, contraction bands (typical of left ventricular hypertrophy), and "car box" nuclei.

This chest radiograph shows an enlarged cardiac silhouette and edema at the lung bases, signs of acute heart failure.

Cardiac cirrhosis. Congestive hepatopathy with large renal vein.

Cardiac cirrhosis. Congestive hepatopathy with large inferior vena cava.

This electrocardiogram (ECG) is from a 32-year-old female with recent-onset congestive heart failure and syncope. The ECG demonstrates a tachycardia with a 1:1 atrial:ventricular relationship. It is not clear from this tracing whether the atria are driving the ventricles (sinus tachycardia) or the ventricles are driving the atria (ventricular tachycardia).At first glance, sinus tachycardia in this ECG might be considered with severe conduction disease manifesting as marked first-degree atrioventricular block with left bundle branch block. Looking more closely, electrocardiographic morphology gives clues to the actual diagnosis of VT. These clues include the absence of RS complexes in the precordial leads, a QS pattern in V6, and an R wave in aVR. The patient proved to have an incessant VT associated with dilated cardiomyopathy.

This is a posteroanterior view of a right ventricular endocardial activation map during ventricular tachycardia in a patient with a previous septal myocardial infarction. Earliest activation is recorded in red; late activation shows as blue to magenta. Fragmented low-amplitude diastolic local electrocardiograms were recorded adjacent to the earliest (red) breakout area, and local ablation in this scarred zone (red dots) resulted in termination and noninducibility of this previously incessant arrhythmia.

A 28-year-old woman presented with acute heart failure secondary to chronic hypertension. The enlarged cardiac silhouette on this anteroposterior (AP) radiograph is caused by acute heart failure due to the effects of chronic high blood pressure on the left ventricle. The heart then becomes enlarged, and fluid accumulates in the lungs (ie, pulmonary congestion).

Epsilon wave on an electrocardiogram in a patient with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD). ARVD is a congenital cardiomyopathy that is characterized by infiltration of adipose and fibrous tissue into the right ventricle wall and loss of myocardial cells. Primary injuries usually are at the free wall of right ventricular and right atria, resulting in ventricular and supraventricular arrhythmias. The most significant of all rhythms associated with heart failure are the life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias.

Electrocardiogram depicting ventricular fibrillation in a patient with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). Ventricular fibrillation is often due to ischemic heart disease and can lead to myocardial infarction and/or sudden death.

Hypokinesis of the anteroseptal wall observed during echocardiography in a patient presenting with an acute anteroseptal myocardial infarction, which can precipitate heart failure.

The rhythm on this electrocardiogram (ECG) is sinus with borderline PR prolongation. There is evidence of an acute/evolving anterior ischemia/myocardial infarction (MI) superimposed on the left bundle branch block–like (LBBB) pattern. Note the primary T wave inversions in leads V2-V4, rather than the expected discordant (upright) T waves in the leads with a negative QRS. Although this finding is not particularly sensitive for ischemia/MI with LBBB, such primary T wave changes are relatively specific. The prominent voltage with left atrial abnormality and leftward axis in concert with the left ventricular intraventricular conduction delay (IVCD) are consistent with underlying left ventricular hypertrophy. This ECG is an example of "bundle branch block plus." Image courtesy of http://ecg.bidmc.harvard.edu .

This electrocardiogram (ECG) shows evidence of severe left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) with prominent precordial voltage, left atrial abnormality, lateral ST-T abnormalities, and a somewhat leftward QRS axis (–15º). The patient had malignant hypertension with acute heart failure, accounting also for the sinus tachycardia (blood pressure initially 280/180 mmHg). The ST-T changes seen here are nonspecific and could be due to, for example, LVH alone or coronary artery disease. However, the ECG is not consistent with extensive inferolateral myocardial infarction. Image courtesy of http://ecg.bidmc.harvard.edu .

The rhythm on this electrocardiogram is atrial tachycardia (rate, 154 beats/min) with a 2:1 atrioventricular (AV) block. Note the partially hidden, nonconducted P waves on the ST segments (eg, leads I and aVL). The QRS is very wide with an atypical intraventricular conduction defect (IVCD) pattern. The rSR' type complex in the lateral leads (I, aVL) is not due to a right bundle branch block (RBBB) but to an atypical left ventricular conduction defect. These unexpected rSR' complexes in the lateral leads (El-Sherif sign) correlate with underlying extensive myocardial infarction (MI) and, occasionally, ventricular aneurysm. (El-Sherif. Br Heart J. 1970;32:440-8.) The notching on the upstroke of the S waves in lead V4 with a left bundle branch block-type pattern also suggests underlying MI (Cabrera sign). This patient had severe cardiomyopathy secondary to coronary artery disease, with extensive left ventricular wall motion abnormalities. Image courtesy of http://ecg.bidmc.harvard.edu .

On this electrocardiogram, baseline artifact is present, simulating atrial fibrillation. Such artifact may be caused by a variety of factors, including poor electrode contact, muscle tremor, and electrical interference. A single premature ventricular complex (PVC) is present with a compensatory pause such that the RR interval surrounding the PVC is twice as long as the preceding sinus RR interval. Evidence of a previous anterior myocardial infarction is present with pathologic Q waves in leads V1-V3. Borderline-low precordial voltage is a nonspecific finding. Cardiac catheterization showed a 90% stenosis in the patient's proximal portion the left anterior descending coronary artery, which was treated with angioplasty and stenting. Broad P waves in lead V1 with a prominent negative component is consistent with a left atrial abnormality. Image courtesy of http://ecg.bidmc.harvard.edu .

This electrocardiogram (ECG) is from a patient who underwent urgent cardiac catheterization, which revealed diffuse severe coronary spasm (most marked in the left circumflex system) without any fixed obstructive lesions. Severe left ventricular wall motion abnormalities were present, involving the anterior and inferior segments. A question of so-called takotsubo cardiomyopathy (left ventricular apical ballooning syndrome) is also raised (see Bybee et al. Systematic review: transient left ventricular apical ballooning: a syndrome that mimics ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction. Ann Int Med 2004:141:858-65). The latter is most often reported in postmenopausal, middle-aged to elderly women in the context of acute emotional stress and may cause ST elevations acutely with subsequent T wave inversions. A cocaine-induced cardiomyopathy (possibly related to coronary vasospasm) is a consideration but was excluded here. Myocarditis may also be associated with this type of ECG and the cardiomyopathic findings shown here. No fixed obstructive epicardial coronary lesions were detected by coronary arteriography. The findings in this ECG include low-amplitude QRS complexes in the limb leads (with an indeterminate QRS axis), loss of normal precordial R wave progression (leads V1-V3), and prominent anterior/lateral T wave inversions. Image courtesy of http://ecg.bidmc.harvard.edu .

This electrocardiogram shows an extensive acute/evolving anterolateral myocardial infarction pattern, with ST-T changes most apparent in leads V2-V6, I, and aVL. Slow R wave progression is also present in leads V1-V3. The rhythm is borderline sinus tachycardia with a single premature atrial complex (PAC) (4th beat). Note also the low limb lead voltage and probable left atrial abnormality. Left ventriculography showed diffuse hypokinesis as well as akinesis of the anterolateral and apical walls, with an ejection fraction estimated at 33%. Image courtesy of http://ecg.bidmc.harvard.edu.

This electrocardiogram shows a patient is having an evolving anteroseptal myocardial infarction secondary to cocaine. There are Q waves in leads V2-V3 with ST segment elevation in leads V2-V5 associated with T-wave inversion. Also noted are biphasic T-waves in the inferior leads. These multiple abnormalities suggest occlusion of a large left anterior descending artery that wraps around the apex of the heart (or multivessel coronary artery disease). Image courtesy of http://ecg.bidmc.harvard.edu .

A color-enhanced angiogram of the heart left shows a plaque-induced obstruction (top center) in a major artery, which can lead to myocardial infarction (MI). MIs can precipitate heart failure.

Emphysema is included in the differential diagnosis of heart failure. In this radiograph, emphysema bubbles are noted in the left lung; these can severely impede breathing capacity.

Cervicocephalic fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) can lead to complications such as hypertension and chronic kidney failure, which can lead to heart failure. In this color Doppler and spectral Doppler ultrasonographic examination of the left internal carotid artery (ICA) in a patient with cervicocephalic FMD, stenoses of about 70% is seen in the ICA.

Cervicocephalic fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) can lead to complications such as hypertension and chronic kidney failure, which, in turn, can lead to heart failure. Nodularity in an artery is known as the string-of-beads sign, and it can be seen this color Doppler ultrasonographic image from a 51-year-old patient with low-grade stenosing FMD of the internal carotid artery (ICA).

Electrocardiogram from a 46-year-old man with long-standing hypertension showing left atrial abnormality and left ventricular hypertrophy with strain.

Electrocardiogram from a 46-year-old man with long-standing hypertension showing left atrial abnormality and left ventricular hypertrophy with strain.

Histologic section of an autopsy myocardial specimen from a patient with long-standing hypertension and associated coronary artery disease. The slide shows myocardial hypertrophy, contraction bands (typical of left ventricular hypertrophy), and "car box" nuclei.

Apical 4-chamber echocardiogram in a 37-year-old man with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), a congenital cardiomyopathy. Note the prominent trabeculae and abnormal wall motion of the dilated right ventricle.ARVD can result in ventricular and supraventricular arrhythmias. The most significant of all rhythms associated with heart failure are the life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias.

Apical long-axis echocardiogram in a young female patient with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD) illustrates end-diastolic measurement of a dilated right ventricular outflow tract (RVOT). Ao = aorta, LA = left atrium, LV = left ventricle, RV = right ventricle.

Apical 4-chamber end-diastolic echocardiogram in a patient with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD) shows dilatation of the right ventricle (RV) (arrow) and prominent trabeculae. Ao = aorta, LA = left atrium, LV = left ventricle.

Cardiac magnetic resonance image (CMRI), short axis view. This image shows right ventricular dilatation, trabucular derangement, aneurysm formation and dyskinetic free wall in a patient with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia.

This magnetic resonance image shows a scar in the anterior cardiac wall, which may be indicative of a previous myocardial infarction (MI). MIs can precipitate heart failure.

Transthoracic echocardiogram demonstrating severe mitral regurgitation with heavily calcified mitral valve and prolapse of the posterior leaflet into the left atrium.

Transesophageal echocardiogram demonstrating prolapse of both mitral valve leaflets during systole in a patient with mitral regurgitation.

Apical 4-chamber view demonstrating restricted opening of the anterior and posterior mitral valve leaflet with diastolic doming of anterior leaflet with left atrial enlargement. This patient has mitral stenosis.

Transesophageal echocardiogram with continuous wave Doppler interrogation across the mitral valve demonstrating an increased mean gradient of 16 mm Hg consistent with severe mitral stenosis.

Transesophageal echocardiogram in an apical 3-chamber view showing calcification and doming of the anterior mitral leaflet and restricted opening of both leaflets in a patient with mitral stenosis.

Transesophageal echocardiogram in an apical 3-chamber view with color Doppler interrogation of the mitral valve revealing aliasing, which is consistent with increased gradient across the mitral valve secondary to stenosis. Also shown in this image, a posteriorly directed jet of severe mitral regurgitation. Valvular heart disease, such as mitral stenosis and mitral regurgitation, can precipitate heart failure.

Echocardiogram of a patient with severe pulmonic stenosis. This image shows a parasternal short axis view of the thickened pulmonary valve. Pulmonic stenosis can lead to pulmonary hypertension, which can result in hepatic congestion and in right-sided heart failure.

Echocardiogram of a patient with severe pulmonic stenosis. This image shows a Doppler scan of the peak velocity (5.2 m/s) and gradients (peak 109 mm Hg, mean 65 mm Hg) across the valve.

Echocardiogram of a patient with severe pulmonic stenosis. This image shows that moderately severe pulmonary insufficiency (orange color flow) is also present.

This video is an echocardiogram of a patient with severe pulmonic stenosis. The first segment shows the parasternal short axis view of the thickened pulmonary valve. The second segment shows the presence of moderate pulmonary insufficiency (orange color flow). AV = aortic valve, PV = pulmonary valve, PA = pulmonary artery, PI = pulmonary insufficiency.

Major CriteriaMinor Criteria
Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspneaNocturnal cough
Weight loss of 4.5 kg in 5 days in response to treatmentDyspnea on ordinary exertion
Neck vein distentionA decrease in vital capacity by one third the maximal value recorded
RalesPleural effusion
Acute pulmonary edemaTachycardia (rate of 120 bpm)
Hepatojugular refluxHepatomegaly
S3 gallopBilateral ankle edema
Central venous pressure > 16 cm water
Circulation time of 25 sec
Radiographic cardiomegaly
Pulmonary edema, visceral congestion, or cardiomegaly at autopsy
Source: Ho KK, Pinsky JL, Kannel WB, Levy D. The epidemiology of heart failure: the Framingham Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 1993 Oct;22(4 suppl A):6A-13A.[3]
ClassFunctional Capacity
IPatients without limitation of physical activity
IIPatients with slight limitation of physical activity, in which ordinary physical activity leads to fatigue, palpitation, dyspnea, or anginal pain; they are comfortable at rest
IIIPatients with marked limitation of physical activity, in which less than ordinary activity results in fatigue, palpitation, dyspnea, or anginal pain; they are comfortable at rest
IVPatients who are not only unable to carry on any physical activity without discomfort but who also have symptoms of heart failure or the anginal syndrome even at rest; the patient's discomfort increases if any physical activity is undertaken
Source: American Heart Association. Classes of heart failure. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/AboutHeartFailure/Classes-of-Heart-Failure_UCM_306328_Article.jsp. Accessed: September 6, 2011.[4]
levelDescriptionExamplesNotes
AAt high risk for heart failure but without structural heart disease or symptoms of heart failurePatients with coronary artery disease, hypertension, or diabetes mellitus without impaired LV function, hypertrophy, or geometric chamber distortion
  • Patients with predisposing risk factors for developing heart failure
  • Corresponds with patients with NYHA class I heart failure
BStructural heart disease but without signs/symptoms of heart failurePatients who are asymptomatic but who have LVH and/or impaired LV function
CStructural heart disease with current or past symptoms of heart failurePatients with known structural heart disease and shortness of breath and fatigue, reduced exercise tolerance
  • The majority of patients with heart failure are in this stage
  • Corresponds with patients with NYHA class II and III heart failure
DRefractory heart failure requiring specialized interventionsPatients who have marked symptoms at rest despite maximal medical therapy
  • Patients in this stage may be eligible to receive mechanical circulatory support, receive continuous inotropic infusions, undergo procedures to facilitate fluid removal, or undergo heart transplantation or other procedures
  • Corresponds with patients with NYHA class IV heart failure
Sources: (1) Hunt SA, American College of Cardiology, and the American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines (Writing Committee to Update the 2001 Guidelines for the Evaluation and Management of Heart Failure). ACC/AHA 2005 guideline update for the diagnosis and management of chronic heart failure in the adult: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2005 Sep 20;46(6):e1-82.[6] ; and (2) Hunt SA, Abraham WT, Chin MH, et al. 2009 Focused update incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2005 Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Heart Failure in Adults A Report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines Developed in Collaboration With the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation. J Am Coll Cardiol. Apr 14 2009;53(15):e1-e90.[5]
CriterionBNP, pg/mLNT-proBNP, pg/mL
HF Unlikely (LR-Negative)HF Likely (LR-Positive)HF Unlikely (LR-Negative)HF Likely (LR-Positive)
Age, y>17< 100 (0.13)*>500 (8.1)*--
>21--< 300 (0.02)-
21-50--->450 (14)
50-75--->900 (5.0)
>75--->1800 (3.1)
Estimated GFR, < 60 mL/min< 200 (0.13)>500 (9.3)--
BNP = B-type natriuretic peptide; GRF = glomerular filtration rate; HF = heart failure; LR = likelihood ratio; NPV = negative predictive value; NT-pro-BNP = N-terminal proBNP; PPV = positive predictive value; – = not specifically defined.

* Derived from Breathing Not Properly data (1586 emergency department [ED] patients, prevalence of HF = 47%).[59]

Derived from PRIDE data (1256 ED patients, prevalence of HF = 57%).[60, 66]

Derived from subset of Breathing Not Properly data (452 ED patients, prevalence of HF = 49%).[65]