Risk stratification and prevention of sudden death in patients with heart failure

Moustafa Banna, Julia H. Indik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Opinion statement: For almost the past decade, recommendations for the use of implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) for primary prevention of sudden cardiac death have been based upon the left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF). Current guidelines recommend an ICD for heart failure patients with LVEF ≥35% and NYHA functional class of II or III; however, because the majority of heart failure patients who qualify for ICD implantation based on these criteria will never have an event requiring ICD therapy over several years of follow-up, additional methods of risk stratification for sudden death are clearly needed. Additionally, most of the nearly 300,000 cardiac arrests that occur each year occur in patients without heart failure or significant left ventricular dysfunction. To improve the identification of patients at risk for sudden death, several criteria other than ejection fraction have been proposed and studied. Markers of autonomic tone, including heart rate turbulence and QT dynamicity, have shown some ability to predict total mortality but not arrhythmic events. Microvolt T-wave alternans testing was initially thought to be highly predictive of life-threatening arrhythmias, but prospective large sub-studies of the MADIT II and SCD-HeFT trials have failed to show a predictive value for T-wave alternans testing. Newer markers for risk are based upon the detection of myocardial fibrosis, which forms the substrate for re-entrant and malignant ventricular tachyarrhythmias. Markers of collagen turnover or quantification of myocardial scar by MRI may hold the best promise for identifying patients at highest risk for sudden cardiac death and may also identify patients at high risk but with an ejection fraction above 35%, who are not currently recommended for ICD implantation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-527
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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