Neurohormonal Intervention to Reduce Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure: What is the Optimal Pharmacologic Strategy?

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Sudden cardiac death (SCD) accounts for up to 50% of deaths in patients with heart failure (HF), depending on severity of symptomatic impairment and left ventricular dysfunction. Neurohormonal therapy directed at the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system may reduce the propensity to SCD through improved hemodynamic responsiveness, reduced sympathetic tone in the myocardium and inhibition of cardiac remodelling. Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors reduce overall mortality in chronic HF, the greatest benefit appearing to arises from reduction of HF progression rather than SCD. In HF patients who experience myocardial infarction (MI) reduced incidence in SCD may make a more marked contribution to the mortality benefits of ACE inhibition. Addition of beta-blocker therapy to ACE inhibition has consistently resulted in a reduction in SCD in patients with either mild-to-moderate or severe HF, and in the presence or absence of MI; the reduction in SCD is of the order of one-third versus placebo. Aldosterone blockade reduces the risk of SCD in advanced chronic heart failure (when added to ACE inhibitor) and in HF associated with acute MI (when given in addition to both ACE inhibitor and beta blocker). The evidence base suggests that for maximal SCD risk reduction in HF, beta-blocker therapy is advisable in combination with standard ACE inhibitor therapy, with addition of aldosterone blockade to this regimen for particular groups of heart failure patients.

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