301. Guidelines: 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure – Question #20 with Dr. Robert Mentz

The following question refers to Sections 7.3.2, 7.3.8, and 7.6.2 of the 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure.

The question is asked by Palisades Medical Center medicine resident & CardioNerds Intern Dr. Maryam Barkhordarian, answered first by Hopkins Bayview medicine resident & CardioNerds Academy Fellow Dr. Ty Sweeny, and then by expert faculty Dr. Robert Mentz.

Dr. Mentz is associate professor of medicine and section chief for Heart Failure at Duke University, a clinical researcher at the Duke Clinical Research Institute, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cardiac Failure. Dr. Mentz is a mentor for the CardioNerds Clinical Trials Network as lead principal investigator for PARAGLIDE-HF and is a series mentor for this very Decipher the Guidelines Series. For these reasons and many more, he was awarded the Master CardioNerd Award during ACC22.

The Decipher the Guidelines: 2022 AHA / ACC / HFSA Guideline for The Management of Heart Failure series was developed by the CardioNerds and created in collaboration with the American Heart Association and the Heart Failure Society of America. It was created by 30 trainees spanning college through advanced fellowship under the leadership of CardioNerds Cofounders Dr. Amit Goyal and Dr. Dan Ambinder, with mentorship from Dr. Anu Lala, Dr. Robert Mentz, and Dr. Nancy Sweitzer. We thank Dr. Judy Bezanson and Dr. Elliott Antman for tremendous guidance.

Enjoy this Circulation 2022 Paths to Discovery article to learn about the CardioNerds story, mission, and values.

Ms. Betty Blocker is a 60-year-old woman with a history of alcohol-related dilated cardiomyopathy who presents for follow up. She has been working hard to improve her health and is glad to report that she has just reached her 5-year sobriety milestone. Her current medications include metoprolol succinate 100mg daily, sacubitril-valsartan 97-103mg BID, spironolactone 25mg daily, and empagliflozin 10mg daily. She is asymptomatic at rest and up to moderate exercise, including chasing her grandchildren around the yard. A recent transthoracic echocardiogram shows recovered LVEF from previously 35% now to 60%. Ms. Blocker does not love taking so many medications and asks about discontinuing her metoprolol. Which of the following is the most appropriate response to Ms. Blocker’s request?


Since the patient is asymptomatic, metoprolol can be stopped without risk


Stopping metoprolol increases this patient’s risk of worsening cardiomyopathy regardless of current LVEF or symptoms


Because the LVEF is now >50%, the patient is now classified as having HFpEF and beta-blockade is no longer indicated; metoprolol can be safely discontinued


Metoprolol should be continued, but it is safe to discontinue either ARNi or spironolactone


The correct answer is B – stopping metoprolol would increase her risk of worsening cardiomyopathy.

Heart failure tends to be a chronically sympathetic state. The use of beta-blockers (specifically bisoprolol, metoprolol succinate, and carvedilol) targets this excess adrenergic output and has been shown to reduce the risk of death in patients with HFrEF. Beyond their mortality benefit, beta-blockers can improve LVEF, lessen the symptoms of HF, and improve clinical status. Therefore, in patients with HFrEF, with current or previous symptoms, use of 1 of the 3 beta blockers proven to reduce mortality (e.g., bisoprolol, carvedilol, sustained-release metoprolol succinate) is recommended to reduce mortality and hospitalizations (Class 1, LOE A). Beta-blockers in this setting provide a high economic value.

Table 14 of the guidelines provides recommendations for target doses for GDMT medications. Specifically for beta blockers, those targets are 25-50mg twice daily for carvedilol (or 80mg once daily for the continuous release formulation), 200mg once daily for metoprolol succinate, and 10mg once daily for bisoprolol.

While we should be cognizant of pill-burden and other barriers to our patients’ quality of life, we must counsel them about the risks of discontinuing any element of guideline directed medical therapy (GDMT). The 2022 heart failure guidelines recommend the long-term use of beta blockers for patients diagnosed with HFrEF, even if symptoms improve (Option A). Conversely, long-term treatment should also be maintained even if symptoms do not improve to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events. Importantly, the abrupt withdrawal of beta blockers can lead to clinical deterioration.

Our patient here has heart failure with improved ejection fraction (HFimpEF) defined as having a previous LVEF ≤ 40% and a ≥ 10-point increase from baseline with a follow-up measurement of LVEF > 40%. HFimpEF is distinct from HFpEF and was proposed in the “Universal Definition and Classification of Heart Failure” by Bozkurt et al published in JCF 2021 in order to distinguish those who benefit from continued GDMT. Accordingly, in patients with HFimpEF after treatment, GDMT should be continued to prevent relapse of HF and LV dysfunction, even in patients who may become asymptomatic (Class 1, LOE B-R). While GDMT may improve symptoms, functional capacity, LVEF, and reverse remodeling in patients with HFrEF, these favorable changes do not reflect full and sustained recovery but rather remission with susceptibility to worsening with GDMT withdrawal. Therefore, stopping any element of her GDMT (BB, ARNi, or MRA) would be incorrect (Options A, C, D).

Main Takeaway

In patients with HFrEF who experience improvement in heart failure symptoms and cardiac function on GDMT (develop HFimpEF), it is important to continue optimizing GDMT to prevent relapse, even if asymptomatic.

Guideline Loc.

Section 7.3.2

Section 7.3.8, Table 14
Section 7.6.2

301. Guidelines: 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure – Question #20 with Dr. Robert Mentz
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