BACKGROUND: Patients with nonischemic dilated cardiomyopathy are at substantial risk for sudden death from cardiac causes. However, the value of prophylactic implantation of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) to prevent sudden death in such patients is unknown. METHODS: We enrolled 458 patients with nonischemic dilated cardiomyopathy, a left ventricular ejection fraction of less than 36 percent, and premature ventricular complexes or non-sustained ventricular tachycardia. A total of 229 patients were randomly assigned to receive standard medical therapy, and 229 to receive standard medical therapy plus a single-chamber ICD. RESULTS: Patients were followed for a mean (±SD) of 29.0±14.4 months. The mean left ventricular ejection fraction was 21 percent. The vast majority of patients were treated with angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (86 percent) and beta-blockers (85 percent). There were 68 deaths: 28 in the ICD group, as compared with 40 in the standard-therapy group (hazard ratio, 0.65; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.40 to 1.06; P=0.08). The mortality rate at two years was 14.1 percent in the standard-therapy group (annual mortality rate, 7 percent) and 7.9 percent in the ICD group. There were 17 sudden deaths from arrhythmia: 3 in the ICD group, as compared with 14 in the standard-therapy group (hazard ratio, 0.20; 95 percentconfidence interval, 0.06 to 0.71; P=0.006). CONCLUSIONS: In patients with severe, nonischemic dilated cardiomyopathy who were treated with ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers, the implantation of a cardioverter-defibrillator significantly reduced the risk of sudden death from arrhythmia and was associated with a nonsignificant reduction in the risk of death from any cause.
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