Patients surviving acute myocardial infarction are susceptible to heart failure, recurrence of angina, reinfarction, arrhythmias, and sudden cardiac death. Most deaths occur in the first six months after infarction. Advancing age is the most important nonmodifiable prognostic factor for long-term prognosis, whereas left ventricular function assessed clinically or measured as either ejection fraction or end-systolic volume is the most important modifiable factor. Other significant long-term prognostic factors include: postinfarction angina at rest, inducible ischemia during exercise testing with or without radioisotope imaging, severity and extent of coronary artery disease, patency of the infarct-related artery, late ventricular arrhythmias, decreased heart rate variability, cigarette smoking, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes mellitus. Identification of these adverse prognostic factors permits risk stratification and enables physicians to determine the most appropriate and cost-effective treatment.

Most patients should have a stress test for inducible ischemia and a noninvasive (echo or radionuclide) assessment of left ventricular function. For high-risk patients such as those with prior infarction, heart failure, early postinfarction angina, or frequent late ventricular arrhythmias, coronary angiography and ventriculography prior to discharge are recommended. Assessment of late potentials and heart rate variability will help identify a subgroup of patients at risk for ventricular arrhythmias and cardiac death. However, a more accurate prediction of reinfarction is not possible at present, and no reliable test for atherosclerotic plaque instability has been developed.

Keyword(s): prognosisrisk factorssurvival

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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