Congestive heart failure is a common, highly lethal cardiovascular disorder claiming over 200 000 lives a year in the United States alone. Some 50% of the deaths in heart failure patients are sudden, and most of these are probably the result of ventricular tachyarrhythmias. Methods designed to identify patients at risk have been remarkably unrewarding, as have attempts to intervene and prevent sudden death in these patients. The failure to impact favorably on the incidence of sudden death in heart failure patients stems largely from a lack of understanding of the underlying mechanisms of arrhythmogenesis. This article explores the role of abnormalities of ventricular repolarization in heart failure patients. We will examine evidence for the hypothesis that alteration of repolarizing K+ channel expression in failing myocardium predisposes to abnormalities in repolarization that are arrhythmogenic. The possible utility of novel electrophysiological and ECG measures of altered ventricular repolarization will be explored. Understanding the mechanism of sudden death in heart failure may lead to effective therapy and more accurate identification of patients at greatest risk.
- action potentials
- heart failure
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- Physiology (medical)