Background: Elevated plasma neurohormonal levels are associated with increased mortality rates in patients with symptomatic heart failure. A previous Studies of Left Ventricular Dysfunction (SOLVD) trial suggested that neurohumoral activation precedes the development of symptoms as demonstrated by increased neurohormonal levels in patients with asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction. However, the significance of this early neurohumoral activation is unclear. The goals of this study were to determine the prognostic significance of the plasma concentrations of plasma norepinephrine (PNE) and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and the renin activity (PRA) in patients with asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction.
Methods and results: PNE and PRA were measured before randomization in 514 patients with left ventricular ejection fractions < or = 35% who did not require treatment for congestive heart failure and were enrolled in the SOLVD Prevention Trial. Plasma ANP levels were measured in a subset of 241 patients owing to study design. Using the Cox proportional hazards model that included left ventricular ejection fraction, New York Heart Association functional class, age, sex, treatment assignment to placebo or enalapril, and cause of heart failure, we examined whether these neurohormones predicted all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, hospitalization for heart failure, development of heart failure, or development of ischemic events (myocardial infarction or unstable angina). PNE was the strongest predictor of clinical events in this patient population. PNE levels above the median of 393 pg/mL were associated with a relative risk of 2.59 (P = .002) for all-cause mortality, 2.55 (P = .003) for cardiovascular mortality, 2.55 (P = .005) for hospitalization for heart failure, 1.88 (P = .002) for development of heart failure, 1.92 (P = .001) for ischemic events, and 2.59 (P = .005) for myocardial infarction. PNE remained the most powerful predictor for all-cause mortality and ischemic events when the analysis included only the patients with histories of ischemic left ventricular dysfunction. The increases in other neurohormonal levels were not useful in predicting the subsequent development of clinical events.
Conclusions: Increased PNE levels in patients with asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction appear to predict all-cause and cardiovascular mortalities and development of clinical events related to the onset of heart failure or acute ischemic syndromes. Thus, measurement of PNE may be a possible early marker for assessment of disease progression in patients with left ventricular dysfunction, and modulating the release or effect of PNE may lead to improved prognosis and/or a reduction in morbidity.