An evaluation of factors which may influence survival and mode of death was conducted over a three year period in a consecutive series of 50 patients with severe chronic ischaemic cardiac failure for more than three months. At the initial assessment all patients were already receiving intensive medical treatment. During follow up four patients successfully underwent cardiac surgery and medical treatment was modified in most patients, with four patients receiving antiarrhythmic drugs. Twenty six patients died: 17 suddenly within one hour of onset of symptoms and nine of progressive cardiac failure. The mortality by one year was 26% and by two years it was 62%. Comparison of those who survived with those who died within one year of follow up showed that a very low left ventricular ejection fraction, severe ventricular arrhythmias, the presence of gallop rhythm, and New York Heart Association class IV were the variables that predicted mortality. By two years left ventricular ejection fraction, ventricular arrhythmias, and pulmonary capillary wedge pressure were the variables that were significantly different in survivors and patients who died. No differences were found in any of the recorded variables between those who died suddenly and those who did not. Thus in patients with chronic ischaemic cardiac failure determination of the left ventricular ejection fraction and the severity of ventricular arrhythmia on the ambulatory electrocardiogram are the best ways to predict prognosis. The presence of gallop rhythm and New York Heart Association class IV status predict early death.
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