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Medicines to Prevent Abnormal Heart Rhythm in Heart Failure

Topic Overview

One of the most frightening aspects about having heart failure is that it can lead to premature death. The increased death rate among people with heart failure is in part caused by the tendency of those with heart failure to develop abnormal heart rhythms.

Some people with heart failure die suddenly from abnormal rapid heart rhythms (called ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation) that begin in the damaged muscle of the heart. These abnormal rapid heart rhythms are dangerous, because they start without warning and dramatically reduce the heart's ability to pump blood. If the abnormal rhythm does not stop on its own after a short period of time, death results from reduced blood flow to the brain and vital organs.

What medicines are used?

Beta-blockers have been proved to increase the survival of people with heart failure. It is not entirely clear how this occurs, but it is suspected that a major factor is their ability to prevent ventricular arrhythmias.

Other heart failure medicines can also help people live longer. These include an aldosterone receptor antagonist and an ACE inhibitor (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor) or ARB (angiotensin II receptor blocker).footnote 1, footnote 2

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Al-Khatib SM, et al. (2017). 2017 AHA/ACC/HRS guideline for management of patients with ventricular tachycardias and the prevention of sudden cardiac death. Circulation, published online October 30, 2017. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000549. Accessed November 6, 2017.
  2. Yancy CW, et al. (2016). 2016 ACC/AHA/HFSA Focused update on new pharmacological therapy for heart failure: An update of the 2013 ACCF/AHA guideline for the management of heart failure. Circulation, published online May 20, 2016. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000435. Accessed June 10, 2016.

Other Works Consulted

  • McKelvie R (2011). Heart failure, search date August 2010. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
  • Yancy CW, et al. (2013). 2013 ACCF/AHA Guideline for the management of heart failure: A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 62(16): e147–e239.

Credits

Current as of: August 31, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Rakesh K. Pai MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine

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