Electrocardiographic strain pattern and prediction of new-onset congestive heart failure in hypertensive patients: the Losartan Intervention for Endpoint Reduction in Hypertension (LIFE) study

Peter M Okin, Richard B Devereux, Markku S Nieminen, Sverker Jern, Lasse Oikarinen, Matti Viitasalo, Lauri Toivonen, Sverre E Kjeldsen, Björn Dahlöf
Circulation 2006 January 3, 113 (1): 67-73

BACKGROUND: The ECG strain pattern of ST depression and T-wave inversion is strongly associated with left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) independently of coronary heart disease and with an increased risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in hypertensive patients. However, whether ECG strain is an independent predictor of new-onset congestive heart failure (CHF) in the setting of aggressive antihypertensive therapy in unclear.

METHODS AND RESULTS: The relationship of ECG strain at study baseline to the development of CHF was examined in 8696 patients with no history of CHF who were enrolled in the Losartan Intervention for Endpoint Reduction in Hypertension (LIFE) study. All patients had ECG LVH by Cornell product and/or Sokolow-Lyon voltage criteria on a screening ECG, were treated in a blinded manner with atenolol- or losartan-based regimens, and were followed up for a mean of 4.7+/-1.1 years. Strain was defined as a downsloping convex ST segment with inverted asymmetrical T-wave opposite the QRS axis in lead V5 or V6. ECG strain was present in 923 patients (10.6%), and new-onset CHF occurred in 265 patients (3.0%), 26 of whom had a CHF-related death. Compared with patients who did not develop CHF, hypertensive patients who developed CHF were older; were more likely to be black, current smokers, and diabetic; were more like to have a history of myocardial infarction, ischemic heart disease, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease; and had greater baseline severity of LVH by Cornell product and Sokolow-Lyon voltage, higher baseline body mass indexes, higher serum glucose levels and albuminuria, similar baseline systolic and diastolic pressures, and reductions in diastolic pressure with treatment but greater reductions in systolic pressure. In univariate Cox analyses, ECG strain was a significant predictor of new-onset CHF (hazard ratio [HR], 3.27; 95% CI, 2.49 to 4.29) and CHF mortality (HR, 4.74; 95% CI, 2.11 to 10.64). In Cox multivariable analyses adjusting for baseline differences between patients with and without new-onset CHF, in-treatment differences in systolic and diastolic pressures, Sokolow-Lyon voltage, and Cornell product, and the impact of treatment with losartan versus atenolol on outcomes, ECG strain remained a significant predictor of incident CHF (HR, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.30 to 2.48) and CHF-related death (HR, 2.78; 95% CI, 1.02 to 7.63).

CONCLUSIONS: ECG strain identifies hypertensive patients at increased risk of developing CHF and dying as a result of CHF, even in the setting of aggressive blood pressure lowering.

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