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Beta Blockers Help Hospitalized Heart Failure Patients
Date:7/11/2008

Continuing treatment reduces death risk, rehospitalization rates, study finds

FRIDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- People who are hospitalized for severe heart failure and have been taking beta blockers should be kept on those medications while in the hospital, a new study finds.

And if they weren't taking beta blockers already, most of them should be started on the medications when they leave, according to a report in the July 15 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The multi-center study of 2,373 people with heart failure severe enough for them to suffer decompensated heart failure, in which they suffer fluid retention, shortness of breath and other complications, is the latest in the back-and-forth story about the role of beta blockers in heart failure, which is the progressive loss of the heart's ability to pump blood.

Beta blockers reduce the activity of adrenaline, and so make the heart beat slower. It was first thought that they were no help against heart failure, said Dr. James B. Young, chairman of the department of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and a member of the research team, but experience has shown otherwise. They now are widely prescribed for the condition.

"But many questions abound, including the best treatment strategy in the hospital," Young said. "The best treatment strategy has been hard to define for hospitalized patients. These are tough questions we haven't had a lot of evidence about."

The new study shows a clear benefit for continuing the drug. More than half of the people hospitalized for heart failure were already taking beta blockers. Continuing that drug therapy reduced the risk of death by 40 percent and of going back into the hospital by 31 percent. Discontinuing beta blocker therapy more than doubled the risk of death.

"This is a very important message that beta blockers are an important therap
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