To systematically review evidence comparing the effect of low-dose versus high-dose ACE inhibitors (ACEIs) on all-cause and cardiovascular mortality and hospitalisation, functional capacity and side effects in patients with heart failure (HF).
We searched PubMed, Embase, Cochrane CENTRAL and LILACS up to January 2019. We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing low-dose versus high-dose ACEIs in adults with HF with reduced left ventricular ejection fraction (HFrEF). Study selection and data extraction were performed by two independent reviewers. Risk of bias was assessed with RoB 2.0, and quality of evidence with Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE). We conducted random effects meta-analysis and trial sequential analysis.
We included eight RCTs (5829 patients with HF). In comparison with low-dose ACEIs, high-dose ACEIs showed a non-significant effect on all-cause mortality (8 RCTs, n=5828, relative risk (RR) 0.95, 95% CI 0.88 to 1.02; moderate quality of evidence), cardiovascular mortality (6 RCTs, n=4048, RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.85 to 1.01; moderate quality of evidence), all-cause hospitalisation (5 RCTs, n=5394, RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.82 to 1.10; moderate quality of evidence) and cardiovascular hospitalisation (4 RCTs, n=5242, RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.17; low quality of evidence). High-dose ACEI increased functional capacity (4 studies, n=555, standardised mean difference 0.38, 95% CI 0.20 to 0.55; low quality of evidence) and the risk of hypotension (4 RCTs, n=3783, RR 1.64, 95% CI 1.30 to 2.05; moderate quality of evidence). High-dose ACEI had no effect on dizziness (3 RCTs, n=4994, RR 1.37, 95% CI 0.97 to 1.93; low quality of evidence), but decreased the risk of cough (4 RCTs, n=5146, RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.73 to 0.98; moderate quality of evidence).
The magnitude of benefit of using high dose versus low to intermediate doses of ACEIs might be less than traditionally suggested in clinical guidelines. These findings might help clinicians address the complex task of HF management in a more rational and timely fashion, saving efforts to implement strategies with the greatest net clinical benefit.