Evidence Supporting the Existence of a Distinct Obese Phenotype of Heart Failure With Preserved Ejection Fraction

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Heart failure (HF) with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) is a heterogeneous syndrome. Phenotyping patients into pathophysiologically homogeneous groups may enable better targeting of treatment. Obesity is common in HFpEF and has many cardiovascular effects, suggesting that it may be a viable candidate for phenotyping. We compared cardiovascular structure, function, and reserve capacity in subjects with obese HFpEF, those with nonobese HFpEF, and control subjects.


Subjects with obese HFpEF (body mass index ≥35 kg/m2; n=99), nonobese HFpEF (body mass index <30 kg/m2; n=96), and nonobese control subjects free of HF (n=71) underwent detailed clinical assessment, echocardiography, and invasive hemodynamic exercise testing.


Compared with both subjects with nonobese HFpEF and control subjects, subjects with obese HFpEF displayed increased plasma volume (3907 mL [3563–4333 mL] versus 2772 mL [2555–3133 mL], and 2680 mL [2380–3006 mL]; P<0.0001), more concentric left ventricular remodeling, greater right ventricular dilatation (base, 34±7 versus 31±6 and 30±6 mm, P=0.0005; length, 66±7 versus 61±7 and 61±7 mm, P<0.0001), more right ventricular dysfunction, increased epicardial fat thickness (10±2 versus 7±2 and 6±2 mm; P<0.0001), and greater total epicardial heart volume (945 mL [831–1105 mL] versus 797 mL [643–979 mL] and 632 mL [517–768 mL]; P<0.0001), despite lower N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide levels. Pulmonary capillary wedge pressure was correlated with body mass and plasma volume in obese HFpEF (r=0.22 and 0.27, both P<0.05) but not in nonobese HFpEF (P≥0.3). The increase in heart volumes in obese HFpEF was associated with greater pericardial restraint and heightened ventricular interdependence, reflected by increased ratio of right- to left-sided heart filling pressures (0.64±0.17 versus 0.56±0.19 and 0.53±0.20; P=0.0004), higher pulmonary venous pressure relative to left ventricular transmural pressure, and greater left ventricular eccentricity index (1.10±0.19 versus 0.99±0.06 and 0.97±0.12; P<0.0001). Interdependence was enhanced as pulmonary artery pressure load increased (P for interaction <0.05). Compared with those with nonobese HFpEF and control subjects, obese patients with HFpEF displayed worse exercise capacity (peak oxygen consumption, 7.7±2.3 versus 10.0±3.4 and12.9±4.0 mL/min·kg; P<0.0001), higher biventricular filling pressures with exercise, and depressed pulmonary artery vasodilator reserve.


Obesity-related HFpEF is a genuine form of cardiac failure and a clinically relevant phenotype that may require specific treatments.

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