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Chronic vagal stimulation for the treatment of low ejection fraction heart failure: results of the neural cardiac therapy for heart failure (NECTAR-HF) randomized controlled trial

Faiez Zannad, Gaetano M. De Ferrari, Anton E. Tuinenburg, David Wright, Josep Brugada, Christian Butter, Helmut Klein, Craig Stolen, Scott Meyer, Kenneth M. Stein, Agnes Ramuzat, Bernd Schubert, Doug Daum, Petr Neuzil, Cornelis Botman, Maria Angeles Caste, Antonio D'Onofrio, Scott D. Solomon, Nicholas Wold, Stephen B. Ruble
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehu345 ehu345 First published online: 31 August 2014


Aim The neural cardiac therapy for heart failure (NECTAR-HF) was a randomized sham-controlled trial designed to evaluate whether a single dose of vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) would attenuate cardiac remodelling, improve cardiac function and increase exercise capacity in symptomatic heart failure patients with severe left ventricular (LV) systolic dysfunction despite guideline recommended medical therapy.

Methods Patients were randomized in a 2 : 1 ratio to receive therapy (VNS ON) or control (VNS OFF) for a 6-month period. The primary endpoint was the change in LV end systolic diameter (LVESD) at 6 months for control vs. therapy, with secondary endpoints of other echocardiography measurements, exercise capacity, quality-of-life assessments, 24-h Holter, and circulating biomarkers.

Results Of the 96 implanted patients, 87 had paired datasets for the primary endpoint. Change in LVESD from baseline to 6 months was −0.04 ± 0.25 cm in the therapy group compared with −0.08 ± 0.32 cm in the control group (P = 0.60). Additional echocardiographic parameters of LV end diastolic dimension, LV end systolic volume, left ventricular end diastolic volume, LV ejection fraction, peak V02, and N-terminal pro-hormone brain natriuretic peptide failed to show superiority compared to the control group. However, there were statistically significant improvements in quality of life for the Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire (P = 0.049), New York Heart Association class (P = 0.032), and the SF-36 Physical Component (P = 0.016) in the therapy group.

Conclusion Vagal nerve stimulation as delivered in the NECTAR-HF trial failed to demonstrate a significant effect on primary and secondary endpoint measures of cardiac remodelling and functional capacity in symptomatic heart failure patients, but quality-of-life measures showed significant improvement.

  • Vagal stimulation
  • Heart failure
  • Autonomic nervous system

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