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Europace. 2012 Apr;14(4):466-73. doi: 10.1093/europace/eur348. Epub 2011 Nov 13.

Arrhythmia-induced cardiomyopathies: the riddle of the chicken and the egg still unanswered?

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Cardiology Department, Heraklion University Hospital, Heraklion, Crete, Greece.


The hypothesis testing of inappropriate fast, irregular, or asynchronous myocardial contraction provoking cardiomyopathy has been the primary focus of numerous research efforts, especially during the last few decades. Rapid ventricular rates resulting from supraventricular arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation (AF), irregularity of heart rhythm-basic element of AF-and asynchrony, as a consequence of right ventricular pacing, bundle branch block, or frequent premature ventricular complexes, have been established as primary causes of arrhythmia-induced cardiomyopathy. The main pathophysiological pathways involved have been clarified, including neurohumoral activation, energy stores depletion, and abnormalities in stress and strain. Unfortunately, from a clinical point of view, patients usually seek medical advice only when symptoms develop, while the causative arrhythmia may be present for months or years, resulting in myocardial remodelling, diastolic, and systolic dysfunction. In some cases, making a definite diagnosis may become a strenuous exercise for the treating physician, as the arrhythmia may not be present and, additionally, therapy must be applied for the diagnosis to be confirmed retrospectively. The diagnostic process is also hardened due to the fact that strict diagnosing criteria are still a matter of discrepancy. Therapy options include pharmaceutical agents trials, catheter-based therapies and, in the context of chronic ventricular pacing, resynchronization. For the majority of patients, partial or complete recovery is expected, although they have to be followed up thoroughly due to the risk of recurrence. Large, randomized controlled trials are more than necessary to optimize patients' stratification and therapeutic strategy choices.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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