Background: The prognosis of chronic heart failure has been studied extensively, but factors predicting short-term outcome in patients with severe chronic heart failure are still poorly defined, and the current indications for heart transplantation as a treatment for end-stage heart failure need on objective analysis.
Methods: Purpose of the study was to identify the determinants of short-term prognosis in a group of 142 consecutive ambulatory patients (mean age 49.8 +/- 11 years). Referred for heart transplantation because of severe chronic heart failure, the patients were admitted with left ventricular ejection fraction markedly depressed and had had symptoms in spite of an optimal standardized medical therapy for at least 1 month. Baseline clinical and instrumental evaluation included right-sided heart catheterization with a flow-directed multilumen thermodilution catheter, which enables determination of pressures, cardiac output, right ventricular volumes, and ejection fraction.
Results: Most patients were in New York Heart Association class III (61%) and IV (24%), and the hemodynamic profile was characterized by mean left ventricular ejection fraction of 20.2% +/- 6%, cardiac index of 2.13 +/- 0.6 l/min/m2, pulmonary capillary wedge pressure of 23.1 +/- 11 mm Hg, right atrial pressure of 7.9 +/- 6 mm Hg, right ventricular ejection fraction of 23.2% +/- 12.4%. During a mean follow-up of 11.1 +/- 9.4 months, 33 patients underwent transplantation (23.4%), 41 died (28.8%), and 68 were still alive (47.8%). There was a substantial overlap in left ventricular ejection fraction between patients divided on the basis of outcome, whereas right ventricular ejection fraction was significantly lower in patients who died or underwent transplantation. Cox multivariate analysis showed three independent prognostic variables: cause (p = 0.03), heart failure score (p = 0.001), and right ventricular ejection fraction (p = 0.000). Short-term survival (10 months) was significantly (p = 0.000) different in patients with > or = 24% or < 24% right ventricular ejection fraction. Statistical analysis identified right ventricular ejection fraction as the single variable to be highly correlated with an increased risk of early death.
Conclusions: This study suggests that right ventricular function is a crucial determinant of short-term prognosis in severe chronic heart failure. Statistical analysis identified right ventricular ejection fraction, determined by thermodilution during right-sided heart catheterization, as the single most important predictor of short-term prognosis in a large cohort of patients who had symptoms in spite of a standardized, optimized, multipharmacologic treatment. The variable allows a useful risk stratification in patients with severe chronic heart failure and uniformly depressed left ventricular ejection fraction and provides guidance in the assessment of indications and timing for transplantation.