Contemporary medical management of left ventricular dysfunction and congestive heart failure.
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OBJECTIVE: The primary purpose of this review was to address the following question: based on the best available evidence, what should be the current medical management of congestive heart failure (CHF)? DATA SOURCES: The major sources for this review were from searches of the English language literature, including computer and bibliography reviews, of all randomized, controlled clinical trials and overview analyses of positive inotropic agents, preload/afterload reduction agents and beta-blocker medications in CHF. STUDY SELECTION: The number of studies reviewed was approximately 40. The major criterion for selection was that the studies be of CHF patients in randomized controlled clinical trials, particularly with a mortality/survival endpoint. Additional clinical trials of nonmortality endpoints in CHF patients and mortality trials in non-CHF patients were also selected to support possible pathophysiological insights for future CHF trials. DATA EXTRACTION: The data, particularly for the accompanying tables, were initially extracted by a single reviewer using common qualitative guidelines as far as was possible within the different temporal, etiological and geographic frameworks of the original component studies. Conclusions are drawn from this data synthesis and from published overviews. DATA SYNTHESIS: Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition therapy is effective in reducing mortality and morbidity in severe left ventricular dysfunction and CHF. Other systemic vasodilators may also be beneficial. The effects of digitalis on survival and morbidity in CHF are presently uncertain, but should be resolved in the near future. Other inotropic agents, at least in the long term, are clinically detrimental. Diuretics decrease morbidity, but their effect on mortality in CHF remains unknown. Beta-blocker and magnesium therapy offer promise in CHF, but await definitive clinical trials evaluation. CONCLUSIONS: The current medical therapy of CHF should definitely include ACE inhibitors, probably diuretics and possibly other vasodilators. Further viable trials of promising new, and older heretofore under-evaluated, CHF therapies are needed. Additionally, innovative strategies are needed to deal with this disease which has an increasing prevalence. Two strategies, primary prevention of CHF and a 'Heart Function Clinic', are discussed.
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