Gheorghiade was a leader of a study several years ago which showed that hospitalized heart failure patients who were not taking beta blockers benefited from having the therapy started before they left the hospital. The new study supports the view that "it is safe and effective to start beta blockers before discharge," at least in most cases, he said.
"If there are severe signs and symptoms before discharge, you have to think twice," Gheorghiade said. "A patient who is not severely decompensated, with a heart rate below 40 or 50, you can start the drug before discharge."
The new study could have a wide application, Young noted. About 1 million Americans are hospitalized each year because of heart failure, he said. And it marks a complete reversal in what was once the common belief, that beta blockers would harm people with heart failure.
"If you are on a beta blocker and are admitted with decompensated heart failure, it is best not to stop the drug, as had been commonly thought recently," Young said.
Learn about beta blockers and other drugs for heart failure from the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: James B. Young, M.D., chairman, department of medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, Ohio; Mihai Gheorghiade, M.D., professor, medicine, Feinberg School of medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago; July, 15, 2008, Journal of the American College of Cardiology
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