Is An Unneeded Beta-Blocker Making You Feel Logy?

The skeptical cardiologist saw a patient recently who  had undergone stenting of a 95% blocked right coronary artery. Mr Jones had presented  a year ago to our ER 2 days after he first began experiencing a light pressure-type discomfort in his left shoulder and scapular region. This pain persisted, waxing and waning, without a clear relationship to exertion or position or movement of his shoulder.

Upon arrival in the ER, his ECG was normal but his cardiac enzymes were slightly elevated (troponin peaking 0.92), thus he was diagnosed with a non-ST elevation myocardial infarction (MI).

He’s done great since the stent procedure fixed the coronary blockage that caused his infarct and chest pain, but during our office visit he related that since his hospitalization he had been feeling “logy.” 

Being a lover of words, my ears perked up at this new-to-me adjective, and I asked him to describe what he meant by logy. For him, loginess was a feeling of fatigue or lacking energy.

Indeed, the online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines logy as sluggish or groggy. It is pronounced usually with a long o and a hard g.

The origin is unclear but has nothing to do with rum:

Based on surface resemblance, you might guess that “logy” (also sometimes spelled “loggy”) is related to “groggy,” but that’s not the case. “Groggy” ultimately comes from “Old Grog,” the nickname of an English admiral who was notorious for his cloak made of a fabric called grogram – and for adding water to his crew’s rum. The sailors called the rum mixture “grog” after the admiral. Because of the effect of grog, “groggy” came to mean “weak and unsteady on the feet or in action.” No one is really sure about the origin of “logy,” but experts speculate that it comes from the Dutch word log, meaning “heavy.” Its first recorded use in English, from an 1847 London newspaper, refers to a “loggy stroke” in rowing.

Fatigue is a common, nonspecific symptom that we all feel at times. It is more common as we age and it can be challenging for both patients and physicians to sort out when it needs to be further evaluated.

Occasionally, fatigue is the only symptom of a significant cardiac condition, but more frequently in the patient population I see it is either noncardiac (low thyroid, anemia, etc.) or iatrogenic

When a patient tells me they are feeling fatigued I immediately scan their med list for potential logigenic drugs.

In this case, my patient had been started on a low dosage of the beta-blocker carvedilol (brand name Coreg) after his stent, and I suspected this was why he had felt logy for the past year.

In cardiology, we utilize beta-blockers in many situations-arrhythmias, heart failure, and heart attacks to name a few, and they are well-known to have fatigue as a common side effect. There was a really good chance that Mr. Jones’s loginess was due to the carvedilol.

It’s important to review all medications at each patient visit to check for side effects, interactions and benefits, and in the case of Mr. Jones’ carvedilol, loginess.

Do All Patients Post-Revascularization or Post-MI Need To Take Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers (BBs) are frequently started in patients after a stenting procedure or coronary bypass surgery, and continued indefinitely. However, the evidence for their benefit in such  patients with normal LV function long term is lacking.

If any post-revascularization population benefits from BBs, it is those, like Mr. Jones who have had a myocardial infarction (MI, heart attack) prior to the procedure, however the smaller the infarct, the less the benefits.

And with the widespread use of early stenting to treat MI, infarcts are much smaller and dysfunction of the left ventricle (LV) less likely.

In those patients with minimal damage and normal LV function, the benefits appear minimal. For this reason in the last 5 to 10 years I’ve been stopping BBs in this population if there are any significant side effects.

An “Expert Analysis” published in JACC in 2017 noted that:

A 2015 meta-analysis of 10 observational acute MI studies including more than 40,000 patients showed that beta-blockers reduced the risk of all-cause death  However, the benefit of these agents was not found in all subgroups and seemed confined to the patients with reduced LVEF, with low use of other secondary prevention drugs, or NSTEMI.

In a study of almost 180,000 patients post MI with normal LV systolic function in the UK between 2007 and 2013 there was no difference in mortality at one year in patients discharged with or without beta-blockers.

The only way to answer this question definitely would be with a randomized controlled trial and, to my surprise and delight, such a study (CAPITAL-RCT (Carvedilol Post-Intervention Long-Term Administration in Large-scale Randomized Controlled Trial) was published in PLOS One in August of 2018.

I’ll save readers the details, but the bottom line is that patients treated with optimal contemporary therapy for acute MI, whose LV function was not significantly impaired, did not benefit in any way from treatment with carvedilol, the beta-blocker my patient was taking.

It’s rare that we get such definitive evidence for a change in treatment that reverses what is in current guidelines. This has the potential to affect tens of thousands of patients and improve their quality of life. It should be trumpeted far and wide. The cynic in me suspects that if it were a study demonstrating the benefits of a new drug, physicians would be bombarded with the new information.

Helping Patients Feel Less Logy

We will be ordering an echocardiogram on Mr. Jones, and if his LV function is normal we will stop his carvedilol and see if he feels significantly better.  

I feel like stopping a drug that is not beneficial and that is causing a lifetime of loginess is an incredibly important intervention a cardiologist can make. It’s not as life-saving as stenting for acute MI, but saving quality of life is something this non-invasive cardiologist can do every day for every patient.

Skeptically Yours,

-ACP

N.B. The summary of the recent CAPITAL-RCT:

STEMI patients with successful primary PCI within 24 hours from the onset and with left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) ≥40% were randomly assigned in a 1-to-1 fashion either to the carvedilol group or to the no beta-blocker group within 7 days after primary PCI. The primary endpoint is a composite of all-cause death, myocardial infarction, hospitalization for heart failure, and hospitalization for acute coronary syndrome. Between August 2010 and May 2014, 801 patients were randomly assigned to the carvedilol group (N = 399) or the no beta-blocker group (N = 402) at 67 centers in Japan. The carvedilol dose was up-titrated from 3.4±2.1 mg at baseline to 6.3±4.3 mg at 1-year. During median follow-up of 3.9 years with 96.4% follow-up, the cumulative 3-year incidences of both the primary endpoint and any coronary revascularization were not significantly different between the carvedilol and no beta-blocker groups (6.8% and 7.9%, P = 0.20, and 20.3% and 17.7%, P = 0.65, respectively). There also was no significant difference in LVEF at 1-year between the 2 groups (60.9±8.4% and 59.6±8.8%, P = 0.06).

 

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Is An Unneeded Beta-Blocker Making You Feel Logy?”

  1. i was put on metoprolol after elevated troponin levels, even though my tests showed no heart disease. i do have some mitral issues, but not bad. i felt terrible on the ‘bb’. because i have had extensive migraine history using a med called cafergot…at my next appt…i brought up the possibility that maybe i had a coronary artery spasm? the doctor thought it over and said possible…and that case a ‘bb’ is not good choice. i was switched that day to cartia xt and i can truly say i felt better immediately! i’ve had no problems other than some slight pain…which i traced back to my migraine med and now i am totally caffeine free and doing quite well! thanks for sharing this article!💕

  2. What is the range of normal ejection fraction? Is a BB appropriate at the first small increment below normal?

  3. Very informative and concise blog post, Dr. P. This is information that will serve anyone well if faced with similar symptoms and cardiac history.

  4. Fie upon thee! – for being so cynical about the lack of fanfare following that CAPITAL RCT.

    ;))

  5. my husband was put on carvedilol after the onset of PAF; his episodes are usually months apart and quite distinct — in other words he knows he is in them, and they typically last 3-5 hours. His various physicians disagree on whether being on continuous BB makes a huge difference in the fib episodes (i.e. whether a different med would make the same difference in regulating heart rate when one happens — we know that none of them would prevent it). But he definitely has the ‘logy’ effect; in fact it is making it difficult for him to get the extra exercise which is also part of the recommendation for his condition. The PCP (who is relatively anti-BB) has deferred to the cardiologist who considers the BB essential and will not even consider anything else. But I don’t feel solid that any of those opinions are particularly scientific. At least no one is interested in discussing it at that level.

    1. I can’t give individual advice obviously but some general points to consider.
      1. We don’t think BBs prevent afib in most people (although I have a few patients who have clearly AF triggered by stressful events in whom BBs prevent AF). You need antiarrhythmic drugs for most people to suppress AF. See my recent post on “Enlightened Medical Management of AF”
      2. For those with paroxsymal AF, BBs can be helpful as you said to limit the heart rate response. You mentioned continuous versus intermittent usage and for some of my patients we utilize BBs only at the time that they go into AF
      3. Options to limit HR response are calcium channel blockers verapamil or cardizem.

  6. I am so glad to see a cardiologist to talk about side effects of medications and how they can help their patients ,just listening and checking what drugs they are on. I was taking Exforge ( valsartan 160 mg and Amlopidine 5 mg) for hypertension, and I was in good control for 5 years, but I have developed a dried cough, and started to feel fatigue extreme , and shortness of breath at rest.. I went to several doctors, primary care physician, pneumologist, cardiologist, endocrinologist, gastroenterologist, allergologist, and refered to an interventional cardiologist which suggested a right and left catheterization because no of these doctors knew what was happening and did not check my medications for side effects. My Echo showed a mild pulmonar hypertension. The catherizacion was normal, however I continued feel as I was dying. I started to monitor my blood pressure and heart frecuency and I saw that I was bradycardic and my blood pressure was kind of low, diastolic under 60. Then I started I decreased my medication to half and whao……I felt better and then I stopped all. Every symptoms disappeared in days.
    If just one doctor listened carefully to me, checked my prescription medications, I would have been saved of spent more that $ 5000.00 in no needed doctors appointments, and tests , that carry complications. Why it is so difficult to desprescript, or change treatment when the side effects are so adversed that affects the quality of life of the patient.

    I would like to see doctors informing more to theirs patients about what side effects can expect from all this pharma drugs. I am so grateful that you touch this topic. Thanks.

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