Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction: uncertainties and dilemmas

Eur J Heart Fail. 2015 Jul;17(7):665-71. doi: 10.1002/ejhf.304. Epub 2015 Jun 16.


Many uncertainties surround the syndrome of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), which was the topic reviewed in an Expert Meeting at the University of Ferrara. This concluded that the absence of clear diagnostic clinical criteria was the major barrier to progress. There was general agreement that symptoms or signs of heart failure, normal LVEF despite an elevated plasma concentration of natriuretic peptides, and signs of abnormal LV relaxation, LV filling, LV hypertrophy, or left atrial enlargement, or diastolic dysfunction supported the diagnosis. However, HFpEF, like all heart failure syndromes, is heterogeneous in aetiology and pathophysiology, rather than being a single disease. HFpEF may account for about half of all patients with heart failure. The classical risk factors for developing HFpEF include age and co-morbidities, notably hypertension, atrial fibrillation, and the metabolic syndrome. When complicated by increasing congestion requiring hospital admission, the prognosis is poor; 30% or more of patients will die within 1 year (nearly two-thirds die from cardiovascular causes). Patients with chronic stable symptoms have a much better prognosis. Despite many clinical trials, there is no solid evidence that any treatment alters the natural history of HFpEF. Several treatments have shown promising early results and are now being tested in substantial randomized clinical trials. Further basic research is required to better characterize the disease and accelerate progress. Our review highlights the many difficulties encountered in performing randomized clinical trials in HFpEF, often due to difficulties in characterizing HFpEF itself.

Keywords: Heart failure; Preserved ejection fraction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Diuretics / therapeutic use
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis*
  • Heart Failure / drug therapy
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Spironolactone / therapeutic use
  • Stroke Volume / physiology*


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists
  • Diuretics
  • Spironolactone