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Left Ventricular Diastolic Dysfunction as a Cause of Congestive Heart Failure: Mechanisms and Management

Robert O. Bonow, MD; and James E. Udelson, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

Requests for Reprints: Robert O. Bonow, MD, Division of Cardiology, Northwestern University Medical School, Wesley Pavillion, Suite 524, 250 East Superior Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2950.

Current Author Addresses: Dr. Bonow: Division of Cardiology, Northwestern University Medical School, Wesley Pavillion, Suite 524, 250 East Superior Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2950.

Dr. Udelson: Box 70, Division of Cardiology New England Medical Center, 750 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111.


Ann Intern Med. 1992;117(6):502-510. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-117-6-502
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Objective: To define the mechanisms underlying left ventricular diastolic dysfunction in patients with congestive heart failure and normal systolic function and to identify the patients at risk for this syndrome.

Study Selection: Studies were selected that describe the clinical observations of congestive heart failure with normal systolic function and that provide experimental and clinical insights into the mechanisms responsible for ventricular diastolic dysfunction.

Data Synthesis: Recent studies indicate that a large number of patients (up to 40% in some series) presenting with congestive heart failure have preserved left ventricular systolic function. The factors contributing to altered left ventricular diastolic function include fibrosis, hypertrophy, ischemia, and increased afterload. The latter three factors, alone or in combination, predispose to impaired left ventricular relaxation, an active energy-requiring process. Thus, decreased left ventricular diastolic distensibility (increased diastolic pressure at any level of diastolic volume) may arise not only from altered passive elastic properties stemming from fibrosis or increased muscle mass but also from derangements in the dynamics of ventricular relaxation.

Results: In patients with essential hypertension, all four of the above mechanisms may be operative. Considering the prevalence of hypertension in the general population, hypertension appears to be an important underlying factor in many patients with heart failure on the basis of diastolic mechanisms. In the patient presenting with dyspnea and elevated filling pressures, but with a nondilated, normally contracting ventricle, treatment with standard heart failure medications (such as digitalis, diuretics, and vasodilators) is often ineffective and may be deleterious. Such patients may respond more favorably to beta-blockers and calcium-channel blockers.

Conclusions: Diastolic dysfunction should be considered in the patient presenting with heart failure symptoms but with normal systolic function, particularly in hypertensive patients with left ventricular hypertrophy.

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