Arrhythmias and mortality in congestive heart failure

Am J Cardiol. 1990 May 22;65(19):42I-48I. doi: 10.1016/0002-9149(90)90125-k.


The extent and severity of myocardial dysfunction and risk of dying are associated with the occurrence of ventricular arrhythmias. However, there is a dissociation between the frequency of ventricular arrhythmias and the prevalence of sudden death among patients with congestive heart failure. Sudden death occurs in 8 to 10% of New York Heart Association functional class I patients and in 20% of class II, III and IV patients, despite increased frequency of malignant arrhythmias and functional deterioration. Yearly mortality rates increase from 12 to 15% in class I and II and is 60% in class IV. Sudden death in class I and II is 50 to 60% of all deaths, whereas in class IV it amounts to only 20 to 30%. The most important cause of death in class IV is progressive congestive heart failure. Ventricular arrhythmia is a trigger event in the development of fatal arrhythmia which depends on a substrate of myocardial scar tissue, hypertrophy and aberrant conducting pathways. However, regional myocardial ischemia, transmembrane electrolyte differences and myocardial stores of catecholamines are important modulators. Depletion of myocardial catecholamines and down-regulation of myocardial beta-adrenergic receptors in the myocardium may explain tolerance to ventricular tachyarrhythmias observed in patients with severe congestive heart failure and intolerance to conventional antiarrhythmic drugs. Although angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors may reduce ventricular arrhythmias, the important role of ACE inhibitors in severe congestive heart failure is to prevent progression of myocardial dysfunction and congestive heart failure. To date, however, ACE inhibitors have not been demonstrated to have a significant effect on the incidence of sudden death. This does not preclude an effect on fatal arrhythmias among patients with milder heart failure and intact stores of myocardial catecholamines.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / complications*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / mortality
  • Catecholamines / metabolism
  • Death, Sudden / etiology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Heart Failure / complications*
  • Heart Failure / mortality
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / metabolism
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / physiopathology


  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Catecholamines
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta