Heart Failure With a Normal Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, Diagnosis and Management

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Heart failure (HF) with a normal left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction (HFNEF) occurs in 40-71% of patients with HF and carries a prognosis similar to that of HF with a reduced LV ejection fraction (LVEF). The pathophysiology of HFNEF is distinct from that of HF with a reduced LVEF and is characterized by impaired relaxation of myocardium, LV stiffness and, in many cases, increased arterial stiffness. Systemic hypertension accounts for most cases of HFNEF in the United States. Those with HFNEF tend to be older and obese. Diabetes mellitus and atrial fibrillation occur with disproportionately high frequency in HFNEF. The diagnosis of HFNEF requires the presence of symptoms or signs of HF, a normal or near-normal LVEF and evidence of LV diastolic dysfunction based on cardiac catheterization or Doppler echocardiographic techniques and/or elevation of plasma natriuretic peptide levels. Current guidelines for management of HFNEF include control of systolic and diastolic hypertension, control of the ventricular rate in patients with atrial fibrillation and judicious use of diuretics. In selected cases, coronary revascularization or restoration of sinus rhythm in those with atrial fibrillation may be indicated. To date, no drug or drug group has consistently improved survival in HFNEF. For this reason and because of the poor long-term prognosis, preventative measures and effective treatment of underlying causes and precipitating factors are particularly important in avoiding HF exacerbations in patients with HFNEF.

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