Background: The relationship between mortality and heart rate remains unclear for patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) in either sinus rhythm or atrial fibrillation (AF).
Objective: To investigate the prognostic importance of heart rate in HFrEF in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing beta-blockers and placebo.
Methods: The Beta-blockers in Heart Failure Collaborative Group performed a meta-analysis of harmonized individual-patient data from eleven double-blind RCTs. The primary outcome was all-cause mortality, analysed with Cox proportional hazard ratios (HR) modelling heart rate measured at baseline and approximately six-months post-randomization.
Results: A higher heart rate at baseline was associated with greater all-cause mortality in patients with sinus rhythm (n=14,166; adjusted HR 1.11 per 10 beats/minute; 95% CI 1.07-1.15, p<0.0001), but not in AF (n=3,034; HR 1.03 per 10 beats/minute; 0.97-1.08, p=0.38). Beta-blockers reduced ventricular rate by 12 beats/minute in both sinus rhythm and AF. Mortality was lower for patients in sinus rhythm randomised to beta-blockers (HR 0.73 versus placebo, 95% CI 0.67-0.79; p<0.001), regardless of baseline heart rate (interaction p=0.35). Beta-blockers had no effect on mortality in patients with AF (HR 0.96, 95% CI 0.81-1.12; p=0.58) at any heart rate (interaction p=0.48). A lower achieved resting heart rate, irrespective of treatment, was associated with better prognosis only for patients in sinus rhythm (HR 1.16 per 10 beats/minute increase, 95% CI 1.11-1.22; p<0.0001).
Conclusions: Regardless of pre-treatment heart rate, beta-blockers reduce mortality in patients with HFrEF in sinus rhythm. Achieving a lower heart rate is associated with better prognosis, but only for those in sinus rhythm.
- Heart failure
- Heart rate
- Atrial fibrillation