Heart Failure's Fuel Gauge

Left ventricle poor function may lead to heart failure

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

(RxWiki News) When the left ventricle of a patient's heart struggles, it may stay filled with blood instead of pumping it out to the rest of the body. This may increase the risk of developing heart failure.

Usually when there is a problem with one or both of the heart's ventricles, it isn't treated. Instead treatment for the underlying cause is the focus, such as drugs for diabetes or hypertension. Despite lack of needed treatment, it may still lead to heart failure.

"See a cardiologist if you have heart pain."

Dr. Garvan C. Kane of the Mayo Clinic and his colleagues wrote that it is important to track population-based information in cardiac changes over time, particularly because currently little is known about heart ventricle performance and its relationship to clinical heart failure.

New research included participants enrolled in the Olmsted County Heart Function Study. Randomly selected participants were 45 years or older, and had a clinical evaluation and echocardiography, an imaging test of the heart. Diastolic left ventricular function was graded as normal, mild, moderate or severe after testing.

The findings were based on an exam that study participants were invited to take four years after the study began. More than 1,400 of the original group of 1,960 surviving patients returned for the exam to search for new-onset heart failure.

During the follow up study, researchers found that function of the left ventricle of the heart had worsened in about a quarter of study participants. They also concluded that poor ventricle performance, also called diastolic dysfunction, made the patients more likely to develop heart failure.

Researchers found that the prevalence of diastolic dysfunction of any degree increased from 24 percent to 39 percent, while the number classified as moderate or severe increased from 6 percent to 16 percent.

During the four-year period, 23 percent experienced worsening diastolic dysfunction, 68 percent remained unchanged and in 9 percent of cases, the function improved. Healthy patients also saw an increase in diastolic dysfunction from 11 percent to 30 percent.

After an additional follow up of more than six years, 81 participants developed heart failure. Patients over the age of 65 were found to be at the highest risk. About 3 percent with normal diastolic function developed heart failure, while 8 percent with mild diastolic function and 12 percent with moderate to severe diastolic dysfunction developed heart failure.

The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Review Date: 
August 25, 2011
Last Updated:
August 28, 2011