Heart failure as a substrate and trigger for ventricular tachycardia

J Interv Card Electrophysiol. 2019 Dec;56(3):229-247. doi: 10.1007/s10840-019-00623-x. Epub 2019 Oct 9.


Heart failure (HF) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality with more than 5.1 million individuals affected in the USA. Ventricular tachyarrhythmias (VAs) including ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation are common in patients with heart failure. The pathophysiology of these mechanisms as well as the contribution of heart failure to the genesis of these arrhythmias is complex and multifaceted. Myocardial hypertrophy and stretch with increased preload and afterload lead to shortening of the action potential at early repolarization and lengthening of the action potential at final repolarization which can result in re-entrant ventricular tachycardia. Myocardial fibrosis and scar can create the substrate for re-entrant ventricular tachycardia. Altered calcium handling in the failing heart can lead to the development of proarrhythmic early and delayed after depolarizations. Various medications used in the treatment of HF such as loop diuretics and angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors have not demonstrated a reduction in sudden cardiac death (SCD); however, beta-blockers (BB) are effective in reducing mortality and SCD. Amongst patients who have HF with reduced ejection fraction, the angiotensin receptor-neprilysin inhibitor (sacubitril/valsartan) has been shown to reduce cardiovascular mortality, specifically by reducing SCD, as well as death due to worsening HF. Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) implantation in HF patients reduces the risk of SCD; however, subsequent mortality is increased in those who receive ICD shocks. Prophylactic ICD implantation reduces death from arrhythmia but does not reduce overall mortality during the acute post-myocardial infarction (MI) period (less than 40 days), for those with reduced ejection fraction and impaired autonomic dysfunction. Furthermore, although death from arrhythmias is reduced, this is offset by an increase in the mortality from non-arrhythmic causes. This article provides a review of the aforementioned mechanisms of arrhythmogenesis in heart failure; the role and impact of HF therapy such as cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), including the role, if any, of CRT-P and CRT-D in preventing VAs; the utility of both non-invasive parameters as well as multiple implant-based parameters for telemonitoring in HF; and the effect of left ventricular assist device implantation on VAs.

Keywords: Beta blocker; Calcium homeostasis; Cardiac resynchronization therapy; Early after depolarizations; Heart failure; ICD; Late after depolarizations; Ventricular tachycardia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / adverse effects
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Connexins / metabolism
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control
  • Defibrillators, Implantable
  • Electrophysiologic Techniques, Cardiac
  • Heart Failure / complications*
  • Heart Failure / metabolism
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology*
  • Heart Failure / therapy
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / etiology*
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / metabolism
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / physiopathology*
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / therapy
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / etiology*
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / metabolism
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / physiopathology*
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / therapy
  • Ventricular Remodeling


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Connexins
  • Calcium