Certain Heart Dysfunction Could Be Fatal

Diastolic dysfunction increases death rate

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The human heart is a complicated mechanism requiring perfect synchronization of numerous functions to keep the body running in tip top shape. This includes the heart where even a small abnormality can cause significant problems.

A recent study shows that a heart abnormality can increase risk of death even if its functions are otherwise normal.

Cleveland Clinic investigators said new research suggests a heart abnormality involving impaired relaxation of the heart's pumping chamber after a contraction may result in an increased fatality risk.

This may be true whether the contraction of the heart is normal or there are other cardiovascular impairments when it comes to the disorder called diastolic dysfunction of the heart.

"Talk to your cardiologist about your risk for the abnormality."

With each heartbeat, the heart contracts and pumps blood out then relaxes, which allows the heart chambers to refill with blood. Diastolic dysfunction happens when the relaxation phase of this heart cycle is impaired.

Study authors hoped to determine whether the mortality risk associated with diastolic dysfunction was independent of other cardiovascular conditions or systolic function, and whether the risk was there even for for mild cases.

Researchers studied the clinical records and echocardiographic findings of 36,261 patients who had an outpatient echocardiogram that revealed normal systolic function between 1997 and 2005. They then determined whether patients' diastolic function was normal or abnormal, and graded cases as mild, moderate, or severe. Few of those in the study had preexisting heart problems.

It was discovered that 65 percent had some degree of  diastolic dysfunction. Of those, 60 percent of cases were mild, 5 percent were moderate and less than 1 percent were considered severe. During an average follow up time of 6.2 years, 5,789 deaths occurred, and the fatality rate was higher in patients with worse degrees of the disorder.

About 21 percent of those in the mild group died, while 24 percent in the moderate group died and 39 percent of those in the severe group were reported deceased. The statistical analysis indicated that only moderate and severe cases were associated with an increased mortality risk.

The research published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

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Review Date: 
June 27, 2011
Last Updated:
July 2, 2011