“We really can’t exercise a thought economy that just says, ‘Extrapolate the evidence-based therapies for heart failure with reduced ejection fraction to heart failure with preserved ejection fraction’ and expect good outcomes,” Dr. Yancy says. “That’s not the case. We don’t have an evidence base to substantiate that.”
He says one or more common comorbidities (e.g. atrial fibrillation, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, renal insufficiency) are present in 90% of patients with preserved ejection fraction. Treatment of those comorbidities—for example, rate control in afib patients, lowering the blood pressure in hypertension patients—has to be done with care.
“We should recognize that the therapy for this condition, albeit absent any specifically indicated interventions that will change its natural history, can still be skillfully constructed,” Dr. Yancy says. “But that construct needs to reflect the recommended, guideline-driven interventions for the concomitant other comorbidities.”
7) Inotropic agents can do more harm than good.
For patients who aren’t in cardiogenic shock, using inotropic agents doesn’t help. In fact, it might actually hurt. Dr. Fonarow says studies have shown these agents can “prolong length of stay, cause complications, and increase mortality risk.”
He notes that the use of inotropes should be avoided, or if it’s being considered, a cardiologist with knowledge and experience in heart failure should be involved in the treatment and care.
Statements about avoiding inotropes in heart failure, except under very specific circumstances, have been “incredibly strengthened” recently in the American College of Cardiology and Heart Failure Society of America guidelines.3
8) Pay attention to the ins and outs of new antiplatelet therapies.
For the majority of these, there’s no specific way to reverse the anticoagulant effect in the event of a major bleeding event. There’s no simple antidote.
—John Harold, MD, president-elect, American College of Cardiology, former chief of staff, department of medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles
Hospitalists caring for acute coronary syndrome patients need to familiarize themselves with updated guidelines and additional therapies that are now available, Dr. Fonarow says. New antiplatelet therapies (e.g. prasugrel and ticagrelor) are available as part of the armamentarium, along with the mainstay clopidogrel.
“These therapies lower the risk of recurrent events, lowered the risk of stent thrombosis,” he says. “In the case of ticagrelor, it actually lowered all-cause mortality. These are important new therapies, with new guideline recommendations, that all hospitalists should be aware of.”
9) Bridging anticoagulant therapy in patients going for electrophysiology procedures should be done only some, not most, of the time.
“Patients getting such devices as pacemakers or implantable cardioverter defribrillators (ICD) installed tend not to need bridging,” says Joaquin Cigarroa, MD, clinical chief of cardiology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.
He says it’s actually “safer” to do the procedure when patients “are on oral antithrombotics than switching them from an oral agent, and bridging with low- molecular-weight- or unfractionated heparin.”
“It’s a big deal,” Dr. Cigarroa adds, because it is risky to have elderly and frail patients on multiple antithrombotics. “Hemorrhagic complications in cardiology patients still occurs very frequently, so really be attuned to estimating bleeding risk and making sure that we’re dosing antithrombotics appropriately. Bridging should be the minority of patients, not the majority of patients.”
10) Some non-STEMI patients might benefit from getting to the catheterization lab quickly.
Door-to-balloon time is recognized as critical for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) patients, but more recent work—such as in the TIMACS trial—finds benefits of early revascularization for some non-STEMI patients as well.2
“This trial showed that among higher-risk patients, using a validated risk score, that those patients did benefit from an early approach, meaning going to the cath lab in the first 12 hours of hospitalization,” Dr. Fonarow says. “We now have more information about the optimal timing of coronary angiography and potential revascularization of higher-risk patients with non-ST-segment elevation MI.”