In contrast to the treatment of HF due to systolic dysfunction, few clinical trials are available to guide the management of patients with HF due to diastolic dysfunction.
In the absence of controlled clinical trials, the management of these patients with HF and preserved LVEF is based on the control of physiological factors (blood pressure, heart rate, blood volume, and myocardial ischemia) that are known to exert important effects on ventricular relaxation95. Likewise, diseases that are known to cause HF with normal LVEF should be treated, such as coronary artery disease, hypertensive heart disease, or aortic stenosis. Clinically, it seems reasonable to target symptom reduction, principally by reducing cardiac filling pressures at rest and during exertion.
Hypertension exerts a deleterious effect on ventricular function by causing both structural and functional changes in the heart. Increases in systolic blood pressure have been shown to slow myocardial relaxation96, and the resulting hypertrophy may adversely affect passive chamber stiffness. Physicians should make every effort to control both systolic and diastolic hypertension with effective antihypertensive therapy in accordance with published guidelines. Consideration should at least be given to achieving target levels of blood pressure lower than those recommended for patients with uncomplicated hypertension (e.g., less than 130 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic).
Because myocardial ischemia can impair ventricular relaxation, coronary revascularization should be considered in patients with coronary artery disease in whom symptomatic or demonstrable myocardial ischemia is believed to be exerting a deleterious effect on cardiac function.
In addition, since tachycardia can shorten the time available for ventricular filling and coronary perfusion, drugs that slow the heart rate or the ventricular response to atrial arrhythmias (e.g., beta-blockers, digoxin, and some calcium channel blockers) can provide symptomatic relief in patients with HF and normal LVEF.
Similarly, patients with HF and preserved LVEF may be particularly sensitive to loss of atrial kick, which supports a potential benefit for restoration of sinus rhythm in patients with atrial fibrillation. The benefits of restoring sinus rhythm in these individuals are less clear, and the large trials of rhythm versus rate control in atrial fibrillation published recently have excluded patients with HF.
Circulating blood volume is a major determinant of ventricular filling pressure, and the use of diuretics may improve breathlessness in patients with HF and normal LVEF as well as those with reduced LVEF. Other possible agents used to reduce diastolic filling pressures are nitrates or agents that block neurohumoral activation. Hypotension may be
95 Vasan RS, Benjamin EJ, Levy D. Congestive heart failure with normal left ventricular systolic function: clinical approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of diastolic heart failure. Arch Intern Med 1996;156:146–57.
96 Brutsaert DL, Rademakers FE, Sys SU. Triple control of relaxation: implications in cardiac disease. Circulation 1984;69:190-6.