Temporal Relation Between Myocardial Fibrosis and Heart Failure With Preserved Ejection Fraction: Association With Baseline Disease Severity and Subsequent Outcome

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Among myriad changes occurring during the evolution of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), cardiomyocyte–extracellular matrix interactions from excess collagen may affect microvascular, mechanical, and electrical function.


To investigate whether myocardial fibrosis (MF) is similarly prevalent both in those with HFpEF and those at risk for HFpEF, similarly associating with disease severity and outcomes.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Observational cohort study from June 1, 2010, to September 17, 2015, with follow-up until December 14, 2015, at a cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) center serving an integrated health system. Consecutive patients with preserved systolic function referred for CMR were eligible. Cardiovascular magnetic resonance was used to exclude patients with cardiac amyloidosis (n = 19).


Myocardial fibrosis quantified by extracellular volume (ECV) CMR measures.

Main Outcome and Measures

Baseline BNP; subsequent hospitalization for heart failure or death.


Of 1174 patients identified (537 [46%] female; median [interquartile range {IQR}] age, 56 [44-66] years), 250 were “at risk” for HFpEF given elevated brain-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) level; 160 had HFpEF by documented clinical diagnosis, and 745 did not have HFpEF. Patients either at risk for HFpEF or with HFpEF demonstrated similarly higher prevalence/extent of MF and worse prognosis compared with patients with no HFpEF. Among those at risk for HFpEF or with HFpEF, the actual diagnosis of HFpEF was not associated with significant differences in MF (median ECV, 28.2%; IQR, 26.2%-30.7% vs 28.3%; IQR, 25.5%-31.4%; P = .60) or prognosis (log-rank 0.8; P = .38). Over a median of 1.9 years, 61 patients at risk for HFpEF or with HFpEF experienced adverse events (19 hospitalization for heart failure, 48 deaths, 6 with both). In those with HFpEF, ECV was associated with baseline log BNP (disease severity surrogate) in multivariable linear regression models, and was associated with outcomes in multivariable Cox regression models (eg, hazard ratio 1.75 per 5% increase in ECV, 95% CI, 1.25-2.45; P = .001 in stepwise model) whether grouped with patients at risk for HFpEF or not.

Conclusions and Relevance

Among myriad changes occurring during the apparent evolution of HFpEF where elevated BNP is prevalent, MF was similarly prevalent in those with or at risk for HFpEF. Conceivably, MF might precede clinical HFpEF diagnosis. Regardless, MF was associated with disease severity (ie, BNP) and outcomes. Whether cells and secretomes mediating MF represent therapeutic targets in HFpEF warrants further evaluation.

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