316. Guidelines: 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure – Question #24 with Dr. Ileana Pina

The following question refers to Sections 10.2 of the 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure.

The question is asked by Western Michigan University medical student and CardioNerds Intern Shivani Reddy, answered first by Mayo Clinic Cardiology Fellow and CardioNerds Academy House Faculty Leader Dr. Dinu Balanescu, and then by expert faculty Dr. Ileana Pina.

Dr. Pina is Professor of Medicine and Quality Officer for the Cardiovascular Line at Thomas Jefferson University, Clinical Professor at Central Michigan University, and Adjunct Professor of Biostats and Epidemiology at Case Western University. She serves as Senior Fellow and Medical Officer at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

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.

Mr. E. Regular is a 61-year-old man with a history of HFrEF due to non-ischemic cardiomyopathy (latest LVEF 40% after >3 months of optimized GDMT) and persistent atrial fibrillation. He has no other medical history. He has been on metoprolol and apixaban and has also undergone multiple electrical cardioversions and catheter ablations for atrial fibrillation but remains symptomatic with poorly controlled rates. His blood pressure is 105/65 mm Hg. HbA1c is 5.4%. Which of the following is a reasonable next step in the management of his atrial fibrillation?


Anti-arrhythmic drug therapy with amiodarone. Stop apixaban.


Repeat catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation. Stop apixaban.


AV nodal ablation and RV pacing. Shared decision-making regarding anticoagulation.


AV nodal ablation and CRT device. Shared decision-making regarding anticoagulation.


The correct answer is D – AV nodal ablation and CRT device along with shared decision-making regarding anticoagulation.”

Maintaining sinus rhythm and atrial-ventricular synchrony is helpful in patients with heart failure given the hemodynamic benefits of atrial systole for diastolic filling and having a regularized rhythm.

Recent randomized controlled trials suggest that catheter-based rhythm control strategies are superior to rate control and chemical rhythm control strategies with regards to outcomes in atrial fibrillation. For patients with heart failure and symptoms caused by atrial fibrillation, ablation is reasonable to improve symptoms and quality of life (Class 2a, LOE B-R). However, Mr. Regular has already had multiple failed attempts at ablations (option B).

For patients with AF and LVEF ≤50%, if a rhythm control strategy fails or is not desired,

and ventricular rates remain rapid despite medical therapy, atrioventricular nodal ablation with implantation of a CRT device is reasonable (Class 2a, LOE B-R). The PAVE and BLOCK-HF trials suggested improved outcomes with CRT devices in these patients.

RV pacing following AV nodal ablation has also been shown to improve outcomes in patients with atrial fibrillation refractory to other rhythm control strategies. In patients with EF >50%, there is no evidence to suggest that CRT is more beneficial compared to RV-only pacing. However, RV pacing may produce ventricular dyssynchrony and when compared to CRT in those with reduced EF (≤ 50%), CRT produced more benefit (Option C).

Although adjustments in antiarrhythmic medications and repeat ablation may be considered, these are unlikely to provide long-term benefit to Mr. E. Regular, who already failed antiarrhythmic regimens and multiple attempts at cardioversion and ablation (Options A, B).

In patients with chronic heart failure and atrial fibrillation, the decision to use anticoagulation for the prevention of cerebrovascular events is generally based on the CHA2DS2-VASc score. Mr. Regular’s CHA2DS2-VASc score is 1 (+1 for HF, no points for: hypertension, age 65-74 or ≥75, diabetes, stroke/TIA/TE, vascular disease, female gender). Chronic anticoagulation therapy is recommended for patients with CHA2DS2-VASc scores ≥2 for men and ≥3 for women (Class 1, LOE A). Therefore, based on the CHA2DS2-VASc score alone, Mr. Regular would not necessarily warrant anticoagulation. However, HF is a hypercoagulable state and serves as an independent risk factor for stroke, systemic embolism, and mortality in the setting of AF. In patients

with HF and a CHA2DS2-VASc score of 1, those with AF had a 3-fold higher risk compared with individuals without concomitant AF. Because HF is a risk factor, additional risk factors may not be required to support the use of anticoagulation in patients with HF, and the decision to anticoagulate can be individualized according to risk versus benefit. The guidelines give a Class 2a recommendation for chronic anticoagulation in men and women with chronic HF and permanent-persistent-paroxysmal AF who have no additional risk factors (LOE B-NR). Therefore, decisions regarding anticoagulation in this context should incorporate patient values, comorbidities, and informed shared decision making.  

Main Takeaway

In summary, the “ablate and pace” strategy of AV nodal ablation and CRT device implantation improve outcomes in patients with heart failure with reduced LVEF and atrial fibrillation refractory to chemical and catheter-based rhythm control strategies and failure of rate control options.

Guideline Loc.

Section 10.2

316. Guidelines: 2022 AHA/ACC/HFSA Guideline for the Management of Heart Failure – Question #24 with Dr. Ileana Pina
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