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J Am Coll Cardiol. 2002 May 15;39(10):1615-22.

Impact of beta-blocker treatment on the prognostic value of currently used risk predictors in congestive heart failure.

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Department of Cardiology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.



This prospective study tested the impact of beta-blocker treatment on currently used risk predictors in congestive heart failure (CHF).


Given the survival benefit obtained by beta-blockade, risk stratification by factors established in the "pre-beta-blocker era" may be questioned.


The study included 408 patients who had CHF with left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) <45%, all treated with an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin type 1 receptor antagonist, who were classified into those receiving a beta-blocker (n = 165) and those who were not (n = 243). In all patients, LVEF, peak oxygen consumption (peakVO(2)), plasma norepinephrine (NE) and N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) levels were determined.


Although the New York Heart Association functional class (2.2 +/- 0.7 vs. 2.3 +/- 0.7), peakVO(2) (14.4 +/- 5.2 ml/min per kg vs. 14.4 +/- 5.5 ml/min per kg) and NT-proBNP (337 +/- 360 pmol/l vs. 434 +/- 538 pmol/l) were similar in the groups with and without beta-blocker treatment, the group with beta-blocker treatment had a lower heart rate (68 +/- 30 beats/min vs. 76 +/- 30 beats/min), lower NE (1.7 +/- 1.2 nmol/l vs. 2.5 +/- 2.2 nmol/l) and higher LVEF (24 +/- 10% vs. 21 +/- 9%; all p < 0.05). Within one year, 34% of patients without beta-blocker treatment, but only 16% of those with beta-blocker treatment (p < 0.001), reached the combined end point, defined as hospital admission due to worsening CHF and/or cardiac death. A beneficial effect of beta-blocker treatment was most obvious in the advanced stages of CHF, because the end-point rates were markedly lower (all p < 0.05) in the group with beta-blocker treatment versus the group without it, as characterized by peakVO(2) <10 ml/min per kg (26% vs. 64%), LVEF < or = 20% (25% vs. 45%), NE >2.24 nmol/l (18% vs. 40%) and NT-proBNP >364 pmol/l (27% vs. 45%), although patients with beta-blocker treatment received only 37 +/- 21% of the maximal recommended beta-blocker dosages.


The prognostic value of variables used for risk stratification of patients with CHF is markedly influenced by beta-blocker treatment. Therefore, in the beta-blocker era, a re-evaluation of the selection criteria for heart transplantation is warranted.

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