Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure Trial (SCD-HeFT)

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Accession Number

Study Type
Clinical Trial

Collection Type
Open BioLINCC Study See bottom of this webpage for request information

Study Period
May 1997 – April 2005

NHLBI Division

Dataset(s) Last Updated
January 3, 2018


Commercial Use Data Restrictions No

Data Restrictions Based On Area Of Research No


The Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure Trial (SCD-HeFT) was designed to evaluate the hypothesis that amiodarone or a conservatively programmed shock-only, single-lead implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) would decrease the risk of death from any cause in a broad population of patients with mild-to-moderate heart failure.


Patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) can die suddenly and unpredictably from arrhythmia despite the use of proven medical therapies, such as beta-blockade. Two approaches have been developed to prevent sudden death among patients with CHF: therapy with amiodarone and therapy with an ICD. However, most of the mortality data on amiodarone and ICD therapy at the time of the study had been obtained in clinical trials performed after myocardial infarction in patients without CHF or those with ventricular arrhythmias. Thus, more data was needed to guide these therapies in patients who did not meet these criteria.


There were a total of 2521 subjects. 847 were randomly assigned to placebo, 845 to amiodarone, and 829 to ICD therapy. Eligible subjects were at least 18 years old and had to have New York Heart Association (NYHA) class II or III chronic, stable CHF due to ischemic or non-ischemic causes and a left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) of no more than 35%.


Before randomization, subjects underwent electrocardiography, a 6-minute walk test, 24-hour ambulatory electrocardiography, liver and thyroid function studies, and chest radiography. Subjects were required, if clinically reasonable, to receive treatment with a beta-blocker and an angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor, as well as an aldosterone antagonist, aspirin, and statins, when appropriate. Subjects were randomly assigned in equal proportions to receive placebo, amiodarone, or a single-chamber ICD programmed to shock-only mode.

Subjects assigned to amiodarone or matching placebo began therapy as outpatients immediately after randomization. Placebo and amiodarone were administered as a loading dose of 800 mg/day for one week, 400 mg/day for three weeks, and then as a daily maintenance dosage according to weight and bradycardia status. Subjects assigned to ICD therapy received their device a median of three days after randomization. The goal of ICD therapy was to treat only rapid, sustained ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. Dual-chamber or biventricular devices, or antitachycardia or rate-response pacing therapies were not permitted. The ICD was uniformly programmed to have a detection rate of 187 beats per minute or more. Antibradycardia pacing was initiated only if the intrinsic rate decreased to less than 34 beats per minute.

Median follow-up was 45.5 months. The primary end point was death from any cause. Secondary outcome measures included cardiac mortality, arrhythmic mortality, morbidity, quality of life, and incremental cost-effectiveness of the interventions. Each active treatment arm was compared to the placebo drug arm.


In subjects with NYHA class II or III CHF and LVEF of 35% or less, amiodarone had no favorable effect on survival, whereas single-lead, shock-only ICD therapy reduced overall mortality by 23%.

N Engl J Med. 2005 May 19; 352(20):2146.

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