Patients with heart failure have a high prevalence of serious arrhythmias and sudden cardiac-death.
Male patients aged 18-75 years with chronic heart failure were randomized to enalapril or hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate. Short-term (4-hour to 8-hour) Holter tape recordings were performed before randomization, at 3 months, at 1 year, and yearly thereafter. Of 804 patients randomized to therapy, 715 had Holters at baseline. Couplets were noted in 56% versus 60% and ventricular tachycardia (VT) (three or more consecutive ventricular premature beats) in 27% versus 29% of patients randomized to enalapril versus hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate, respectively. The presence of VT at 3 months, 1 year, and 2 years predicted significantly higher mortality during the subsequent year (p < 0.0001, p < 0.001, and p < 0.037, respectively). In the enalapril group, VT prevalence decreased by 27% at 1 year (p < 0.02). A decrease in prevalence of VT was not seen in the hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate group. New VT was seen in 11% of enalapril patients versus 24% of hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate patients at 1 year (p < 0.002). When compared with hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate at 1 and 2 years, there was a 52% and 49% reduction, respectively, in sudden deaths in the enalapril group. Thus, at 1 and 2 years, the decrease in sudden deaths in the enalapril group coincided with the decrease in VT prevalence and the decrease in new VT emergence.
In patients with heart failure, VT and couplets predict increased mortality. When compared with hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate, enalapril decreases both the persistence of baseline VT at 3 months and the emergence of new VT at 1 and 2 years. The reduction in VT prevalence parallels a reduction in sudden death. The effect of enalapril on survival over hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate may be related to its ability to reduce prevalence of ventricular arrhythmia.