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Jul 08, 2014

Unique Benefits of Heart Failure Therapy in Women

Women with mild heart failure benefit more from cardiac resynchronization therapy than men, finds study.

Men and women respond differently to a common heart failure therapy, according to a recent review of clinical trials.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this study analyzed trials involving cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT)—a useful heart failure treatment that helps improve both outcomes and quality of life. Not only has CRT been shown to improve heart failure symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath, it helps keep patients out of the hospital and lowers risk of death.

However, current CRT guidelines are based on studies involving primarily men. Women have been vastly underrepresented in CRT trials, making up only 20% of study participants, and experts believe that sex-specific guidelines are greatly needed to better treat heart failure patients.

For this reason, researchers pooled data from three separate clinical trials encompassing more than 4,000 heart failure patients treated with CRT. After comparing outcomes between men and women, investigators found that women benefited more from CRT than men. Although men with mild heart failure saw no significant benefit from CRT in these studies, CRT reduced risk of heart failure or death by 76% among women. Ironically, however, women with heart failure are less likely to receive CRT than men.

Based on study findings, authors recommend sex-specific criteria for CRT treatment in women and men. Current guidelines use one set of criteria to determine whether a patient is considered sick enough to benefit from CRT. Study findings, however, make it clear that women should have unique guidelines for when CRT should be used. And since women are already less likely to receive CRT than men, it’s important that experts become aware of recent evidence to more effectively treat female patients with heart failure.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is cardiac resynchronization therapy?
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) is often used in patients with moderate to severe heart failure who have arrhythmia, the most common type of irregular heartbeat. Patients undergoing CRT have a small pacemaker implanted in their chest, which monitors the heart rate and corrects any abnormal heart rhythms. CRT has been shown to alleviate heart failure symptoms, including shortness of breath, and improve outcomes.
  • What is heart failure?

  • Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Although there is no cure for heart failure, treatments such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs can help improve outcomes as well as quality of life.

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