Left ventricular diastolic dysfunction plays an important role in congestive heart failure. Although once thought to be lower, the mortality of diastolic heart failure may be as high as that of systolic heart failure. Diastolic heart failure is a clinical syndrome characterized by signs and symptoms of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (0.50) and abnormal diastolic function. One of the earliest indications of diastolic heart failure is exercise intolerance followed by fatigue and, possibly, chest pain. Other clinical signs may include distended neck veins, atrial arrhythmias, and the presence of third and fourth heart sounds. Diastolic dysfunction is difficult to differentiate from systolic dysfunction on the basis of history, physical examination, and electrocardiographic and chest radiographic findings. Therefore, objective diagnostic testing with cardiac catheterization, Doppler echocardiography, and possibly measurement of serum levels of B-type natriuretic peptide is often required. Three stages of diastolic dysfunction are recognized. Stage I is characterized by reduced left ventricular filling in early diastole with normal left ventricular and left atrial pressures and normal compliance. Stage II or pseudonormalization is characterized by a normal Doppler echocardiographic transmitral flow pattern because of an opposing increase in left atrial pressures. This normalization pattern is a concern because marked diastolic dysfunction can easily be missed. Stage III, the final, most severe stage, is characterized by severe restrictive diastolic filling with a marked decrease in left ventricular compliance. Pharmacological therapy is tailored to the cause and type of diastolic dysfunction.

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