Assessing left ventricular systolic function: from ejection fraction to strain analysis.

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The measurement of left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) is a ubiquitous component of imaging studies used to evaluate patients with cardiac conditions and acts as an arbiter for many management decisions. This follows early trials investigating heart failure therapies which used a binary LVEF cut-off to select patients with the worst prognosis, who may gain the most benefit. Forty years on, the cardiac disease landscape has changed. Left ventricular ejection fraction is now a poor indicator of prognosis for many heart failure patients; specifically, for the half of patients with heart failure and truly preserved ejection fraction (HF-PEF). It is also recognized that LVEF may remain normal amongst patients with valvular heart disease who have significant myocardial dysfunction. This emphasizes the importance of the interaction between LVEF and left ventricular geometry. Guidelines based on LVEF may therefore miss a proportion of patients who would benefit from early intervention to prevent further myocardial decompensation and future adverse outcomes. The assessment of myocardial strain, or intrinsic deformation, holds promise to improve these issues. The measurement of global longitudinal strain (GLS) has consistently been shown to improve the risk stratification of patients with heart failure and identify patients with valvular heart disease who have myocardial decompensation despite preserved LVEF and an increased risk of adverse outcomes. To complete the integration of GLS into routine clinical practice, further studies are required to confirm that such approaches improve therapy selection and accordingly, the outcome for patients.

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