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Review
August 4, 2020

Heart Failure With Reduced Ejection Fraction: A Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • 2Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • 3Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 4Baim Institute for Clinical Research, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2020;324(5):488-504. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.10262
Abstract

Importance  Worldwide, the burden of heart failure has increased to an estimated 23 million people, and approximately 50% of cases are HF with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF).

Observations  Heart failure is a clinical syndrome characterized by dyspnea or exertional limitation due to impairment of ventricular filling or ejection of blood or both. HFrEF occurs when the left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) is 40% or less and is accompanied by progressive left ventricular dilatation and adverse cardiac remodeling. Assessment for heart failure begins with obtaining a medical history and physical examination. Also central to diagnosis are elevated natriuretic peptides above age- and context-specific thresholds and identification of left ventricular systolic dysfunction with LVEF of 40% or less as measured by echocardiography. Treatment strategies include the use of diuretics to relieve symptoms and application of an expanding armamentarium of disease-modifying drug and device therapies. Unless there are specific contraindications, patients with HFrEF should be treated with a β-blocker and one of an angiotensin receptor–neprilysin inhibitor, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor, or angiotensin receptor blocker as foundational therapy, with addition of a mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist in patients with persistent symptoms. Ivabradine and hydralazine/isosorbide dinitrate also have a role in the care of certain patients with HFrEF. More recently, sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors have further improved disease outcomes, significantly reducing cardiovascular and all-cause mortality irrespective of diabetes status, and vericiguat, a soluble guanylate cyclase stimulator, reduces heart failure hospitalization in high-risk patients with HFrEF. Device therapies may be beneficial in specific subpopulations, such as cardiac resynchronization therapy in patients with interventricular dyssynchrony, transcatheter mitral valve repair in patients with severe secondary mitral regurgitation, and implantable cardiac defibrillators in patients with more severe left ventricular dysfunction particularly of ischemic etiology.

Conclusions and Relevance  HFrEF is a major public health concern with substantial morbidity and mortality. The management of HFrEF has seen significant scientific breakthrough in recent decades, and the ability to alter the natural history of the disease has never been better. Recent developments include SGLT2 inhibitors, vericiguat, and transcatheter mitral valve repair, all of which incrementally improve prognosis beyond foundational neurohormonal therapies. Disease morbidity and mortality remain high, with a 5-year survival rate of 25% after hospitalization for HFrEF.

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