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A Journal on Heart and Vascular Diseases

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Angiology and Vascular Pathology
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Minerva Cardioangiologica 2007 June;55(3):325-33


language: English

Autonomic nervous system in the genesis of arrhythmias in chronic heart failure: implication for risk stratification

Piepoli M. F., Capucci A.

Department of Cardiology G. da Saliceto Hospital, Piacenza, Italy


Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is one of a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with chronic heart failure (CHF). There is a circadian variation of the frequency of SCD. Beta-blocker therapy significantly reduces the incidence of SCD. These clinical observations suggest a close association between ventricular arrhythmia and sympathetic activity. The identification of patients at risk is a major clinical problem not only for the unpredictability of the event, but also for the continuous growth of patients’number. The implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is highly effective at terminating life threatening ventricular tachyarrhythmia At present, 1-2% of the population has heart failure and numbers continue to increase, but the ICD remains expensive. The challenge lies in identifying patients with heart failure who are at significant risk of arrhythmia and who would benefit from an ICD in addition to other anti-arrhythmic strategies. Our power of identifying heart failure patients at risk for arrhythmic death is far from being satisfactory. Heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity analysis has been largely utilized to obtain information on autonomic modulation of sinus node as well as to identify patients at risk. It is possible that the combination of results of multiple noninvasive tests such as reduction in ejection fraction and positivity for T wave alternans may not only provide general prognostic information but also facilitate the appropriate identification of patients at risk who may benefit from antiarrhythmic therapy.

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