Twenty-eight patients with heart failure caused by congestive cardiomyopathy, which had been diagnosed according to the criteria of Goodwin and Oakley, were treated with beta-blocking agents for six to 62 months, except for four patients who died within two months. Repeated non-invasive investigations were performed before and during treatment as well as exercise tests and chest x-rays. The echocardiographic and pulse curve findings indicated an improvement in systolic and diastolic myocardial function. The ejection fraction increased from 0.32 +/- 0.02 to 0.42 +/- 0.04, and the third heart sound amplitude and rapid filling wave were significantly reduced. The functional classification improved in 15 patients while in 12 patients it remained unchanged and in one it deteriorated. During follow-up, 10 patients died, most of them suddenly. The mortality was lower than expected in this severely ill group of patients. The beneficial effect of chronic beta-blockade in patients with congestive cardiomyopathy suggests that catecholamines are involved in the pathogenesis of congestive cardiomyopathy, and that patients with congestive cardiomyopathy may have inappropriate sympathetic cardiac stimulation which can be reduced by chronic beta-blockade. It is suggested that beta-receptor blockade should be added to conventional treatment with digitalis and diuretics in all patients with severe myocardial failure caused by congestive cardiomyopathy.
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