Clinical Inquiries

Which medications benefit patients with diastolic heart failure?

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Aangiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs), propranolol, statins, furosemide, and some angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) benefit patients. Medications that reduce mortality in diastolic heart failure include ACEIs (strength of recommendation [SOR]: C, 1 prospective cohort trial with matched controls), propranolol (SOR: B, 1 randomized controlled trial [RCT]), and statins (SOR: C, 1 prospective cohort trial).

Furosemide improves symptoms of heart failure and quality of life (SOR: C, 1 RCT, using cohort data).

ARBs show mixed results: candesartan decreases hospital admissions (SOR: B, 1 large RCT); losartan improves exercise duration and quality of life (SOR: B, 2 small RCTs); irbesartan doesn’t improve heart failure symptoms or other outcomes (SOR: B, 1 large RCT).

Evidence summary

Diastolic heart failure, defined as classic evidence of congestive heart failure with “preserved” or “normal” left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF),1 is often encountered in medical practice. Unfortunately, studies that address diastolic heart failure don’t use a uniform ejection fraction to define preserved systolic function. Treatments for diastolic failure have included diuretics, ACEIs, ARBs, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, digoxin, and statins.

ACEIs decrease mortality
One small prospective study in France enrolled 358 subjects who were admitted for a first episode of heart failure but had ejection fractions ≥50%. Patients were separated into 2 groups based on whether or not they were prescribed an ACEI—lisinopril (32.3%), ramipril (25.6%), perindopril (23.8%), or enalapril (5.5%)—at discharge. The authors attempted to adjust for selection bias by developing a propensity score and comparing matched controls.

Patients who had been prescribed ACEIs had a 10% reduction in 5-year mortality (number needed to treat [NNT]=10).2

ARBs produce mixed outcomes
Evidence regarding outcomes with ARBs is not clear cut. Candesartan was studied in the CHARM-Preserved Trial, which enrolled 3023 patients from 618 centers in 26 countries with New York Heart Association functional class II to class IV congestive heart failure of at least 4 weeks’ duration and LVEF >40%.3 The treatment group showed a significant decrease in hospital admission for congestive heart failure (NNT=30, covariate adjusted), but no improvement in mortality.

Evidence-based answers from the Family Physicians Inquiries Network

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