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Am J Cardiol. 1991 Feb 1;67(4):274-9.

Left ventricular size, mass and function in relation to the duration and quantity of heavy drinking in alcoholics.

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First Department of Medicine, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Finland.


Left ventricular (LV) hypertrophy and mild dysfunction are frequently observed in alcoholics but little is known about how they relate to the duration and severity of alcohol abuse. LV size, mass and function were studied using echocardiography and systolic time intervals in 78 middle-aged male alcoholics who also gave detailed accounts of the duration of heavy drinking, the quantity of recent ethanol consumption and the duration of abstinence. Compared with 34 healthy nonalcoholics, alcoholics had a higher LV mass index (85 +/- 2 [mean +/- standard error] vs 77 +/- 2 g/m2, p = 0.001), a thicker posterior wall (11 +/- 0.2 vs 10 +/- 0.2 mm, p = 0.02), a longer end-systolic diameter index (18 +/- 0.3 vs 17 +/- 0.3 mm/m2, p = 0.02), and a higher preejection period/ejection time ratio (0.36 +/- 0.01 vs 0.33 +/- 0.01, p = 0.002). In multivariate linear regression models, these abnormalities proved independent of the drinking history, except that posterior wall thickness was weakly related to the duration of heavy drinking (standardized correlation coefficient 0.36, p = 0.01). Univariate analyses suggested that the LV mass index and systolic time interval ratio had, if anything, a curvilinear relation to the total duration of heavy alcohol consumption. It is concluded that the LV hypertrophy and dysfunction found in alcoholics are poorly related to the duration and severity of self-reported alcohol abuse. Together with other data, this suggests that there is no simple linear dose-injury relation in the long-term cardiotoxicity of ethanol. Factors modifying the myocardial effects of ethanol need to be studies more in the future.

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