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Beta-blockers for congestive heart failure in children.

BACKGROUND: Beta-blockers are an essential part of standard therapy in adult congestive heart failure and are therefore also expected to be beneficial in children. However, congestive heart failure in children differs strongly from that in adults in terms of characteristics and aetiology; also, an increased drug clearance has been reported. Paediatric needs have therefore to be specifically investigated.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of beta-adrenoceptor-blockers in children with congestive heart failure.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) on The Cochrane Library (Issue 4 2007), MEDLINE (1966 to January 2008), EMBASE (1980 to January 2008), and LILACS (1980 to January 2008). Bibliographies of identified studies were checked. No language restrictions were applied.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised, controlled clinical trials investigating the effect of beta-blocker therapy on paediatric congestive heart failure.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently extracted and assessed data from the included trials.

MAIN RESULTS: Three studies with an overall number of 203 participants were identified. Two small studies, with 20 and 22 children respectively, showed an improvement of congestive heart failure, while a larger study with 161 participants showed no evidence of benefit over placebo in the composite measure of heart failure outcomes which was the main outcome measure of the trial (56% improvement in both the placebo and the treatment group, p=0.74). However, study populations showed vast differences with regard to treatment (choice of beta-blocker, dosing, duration of treatment), age and age range of the participants and in particular with regard to condition (aetiology and severity of heart failure; homogeneity of condition in the study population). In addition methods and outcome measures differed strongly and were not standardised. The results can therefore not be compared against each other.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: There are not enough data to recommend or discourage the use of beta-blockers in children with congestive heart failure. Further investigations in clearly defined populations with standardised methodology are required to establish guidelines for therapy. Pharmacokinetic investigations of beta-blockers in children are required to provide effective dosing in future trials.

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