In recent years there have been encouraging developments in the therapy for congestive heart failure. Vasodilator therapy, as an adjunct to digitalis and diuretics, has made a major impact. Vasodilator therapy results in improved left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction, improved functional capacity, and enhanced quality of life. When an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor is used, several studies published since 1988 show that these improvements are accompanied by improved survival. Yet many questions remain. Principal among these is how to approach the patient who has significantly depressed LV function, but is asymptomatic or has only minimal symptoms. In these patients the prognosis cannot be based on New York Heart Association (NYHA) functional class, but must reflect objective measurements of ventricular function. Any intervention should be specifically designed to improve survival, since functional capacity and quality of life are apparently unimpaired. On the other hand, there are no data at present to suggest that intervention in these patients will improve survival. This article considers the evaluation of such asymptomatic patients and potential therapeutic approaches. These are the use of cardiac glycosides, the use of ACE inhibitors, or their combination. Circumstantial evidence supporting their use in this select patient population is considered. It is stressed that any decision to intervene therapeutically in the asymptomatic patient must be made by the physician on an individual basis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine