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Aims: Several randomized trials have reported that beta-blocker therapy improves left ventricular function and reduces the rate of hospitalization in patients with congestive heart failure. However, most trials were individually too small to assess reliably the effects of treatment on mortality. In these circumstances a systematic overview of all trials of beta-blocker therapy in patients with congestive heart failure may provide the most reliable guide to treatment effects. Methods and results: Details were sought from all completed randomized trials of oral beta-blocker therapy in patients with heart failure of any aetiology. In particular, data on mortality were sought from all randomized patients for the scheduled treatment period. The typical effect of treatment on mortality was estimated from an overview in which the results of all individual trials were combined using standard statistical methods. Twenty-four randomized trials, involving 3141 patients with stable congestive heart failure were identified. Complete data on mortality were obtained from all studies, and a total of 297 deaths were documented during an average of 13 months of follow-up. Overall, there was a 31% reduction in the odds of death among patients assigned a beta-blocker (95% confidence interval 11 to 46%, 2P = 0.0035), representing an absolute reduction in mean annual mortality from 9.7% to 7.5%. The effects on mortality of vasodilating beta-blockers (47% reduction SD 15), principally carvedilol, were non-significantly greater (2P = 0.09) than those of standard agents (18% reduction SD 15), principally metoprolol. Conclusions: Beta-blocker therapy is likely to reduce mortality in patients with heart failure. However, large-scale, long-term randomized trials are still required to confirm and quantify more precisely the benefit suggested by this overview.

Original publication




Journal article


European Heart Journal

Publication Date





560 - 565