Background: Long-term administration of beta-adrenergic blockers to patients after myocardial infarction improves survival. However, physicians are reluctant to administer beta-blockers to many patients, such as older patients and those with chronic pulmonary disease, left ventricular dysfunction, or non-Q-wave myocardial infarction.
Methods: The medical records of 201,752 patients with myocardial infarction were abstracted by the Cooperative Cardiovascular Project, which was sponsored by the Health Care Financing Administration. Using a Cox proportional-hazards model that accounted for multiple factors that might influence survival, we compared mortality among patients treated with beta-blockers with mortality among untreated patients during the two years after myocardial infarction.
Results: A total of 34 percent of the patients received beta-blockers. The percentage was lower among the very elderly, blacks, and patients with the lowest ejection fractions, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, elevated serum creatinine concentrations, or type 1 diabetes mellitus. Nevertheless, mortality was lower in every subgroup of patients treated with beta-blockade than in untreated patients. In patients with myocardial infarction and no other complications, treatment with beta-blockers was associated with a 40 percent reduction in mortality. Mortality was also reduced by 40 percent in patients with non-Q-wave infarction and those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Blacks, patients 80 years old or older, and those with a left ventricular ejection fraction below 20 percent, serum creatinine concentration greater than 1.4 mg per deciliter (124 micromol per liter), or diabetes mellitus had a lower percentage reduction in mortality. Given, however, the higher mortality rates in these subgroups, the absolute reduction in mortality was similar to or greater than that among patients with no specific risk factors.
Conclusions: After myocardial infarction, patients with conditions that are often considered contraindications to beta-blockade (such as heart failure, pulmonary disease, and older age) and those with nontransmural infarction benefit from beta-blocker therapy.