Beta Blockers


Article Author:
Khashayar Farzam


Article Editor:
Arif Jan


Editors In Chief:
Rodrigo Kuljis
Oleg Chernyshev
Aninda Acharya


Managing Editors:
Avais Raja
Orawan Chaigasame
Carrie Smith
Abdul Waheed
Khalid Alsayouri
Kyle Blair
Trevor Nezwek
Radia Jamil
Erin Hughes
Patrick Le
Anoosh Zafar Gondal
Saad Nazir
William Gossman
Hassam Zulfiqar
Navid Mahabadi
Hussain Sajjad
Steve Bhimji
Muhammad Hashmi
John Shell
Matthew Varacallo
Heba Mahdy
Ahmad Malik
Sarosh Vaqar
Mark Pellegrini
James Hughes
Beata Beatty
Daniyal Ameen
Altif Muneeb
Beenish Sohail
Nazia Sadiq
Hajira Basit
Phillip Hynes
Komal Shaheen
Sandeep Sekhon


Updated:
6/29/2019 2:30:49 PM

Indications

Beta-blockers as a class of drugs are primarily used to treat cardiovascular diseases and other conditions.[1]

Beta receptors exist in three distinct forms: beta-1 (B1), beta-2 (B2) and beta-3 (B3). Beta-1 receptors located primarily in the heart mediate cardiac activity. Beta-2 receptors with their diverse location in many organ systems control various aspects of metabolic activity and induce smooth muscle relaxation. Beta-3 receptors induce the breakdown of fat cells and are less clinically relevant at present. Blockage of these receptors by beta-blocking medicines are used to treat a broad range of illnesses.[1] Beta-blockers as a class of medications are essential drugs and are first-line treatments in many acute and chronic conditions.

Beta blockers are indicated and have FDA approval for the treatment of tachycardia, hypertension, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, hyperthyroidism, essential tremor, aortic dissection, portal hypertension, glaucoma, migraine prophylaxis, and other conditions. They are also used to treat less common conditions such as long QT syndrome and hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. Beta blockers are available for administration in three main forms: oral, intravenous, and ophthalmic and the route of administration is often determined by the acuity of the illness (parenteral use in arrhythmias), disease type (topical use in glaucoma) and chronicity of the disease. 

Congestive heart failure patients are treated with beta blockers if they are in a compensated state. Specifically, the beta blockers bisoprolol, carvedilol, and metoprolol succinate are the agents chosen.

Athletes and musicians may use beta blockers for their anxiolytic effect as well as their inhibitory effects on the sympathetic nervous system. They are not FDA approved for the treatment of anxiety-related disorders; however, they have a potent anxiolytic effect. Combined with a reduction in tremor, they may lead to improved stage performance.  

Mechanism of Action

The catecholamines, epinephrine, and norepinephrine bind to B1 receptors and increase cardiac automaticity as well as conduction velocity. B1 receptors also induce renin release, and this leads to an increase in blood pressure. In contrast, binding to B2 receptors causes relaxation of the smooth muscles along with increased metabolic effects such as glycogenolysis.

Beta-blockers vary in their specificity towards different receptors and accordingly the effects produced are determined by the type of receptor(s) blocked as well as the organ system involved. Some beta blockers also bind to alpha receptors to some degree, allowing them to induce a different clinical outcome when used in specific settings.

Once beta blockers bind to the B1 and B2 receptors, they inhibit these effects. Therefore, the chronotropic and inotropic effects on the heart undergo inhibition, and the heart rate slows down as a result. Beta blockers also decrease blood pressure via several mechanisms, including decreased renin and reduced cardiac output. The negative chronotropic and inotropic effects lead to a decreased oxygen demand; that is how angina improves after beta-blocker usage. These medications also prolong the atrial refractory periods and have a potent antiarrhythmic effect.

Beta-blockers classify as either non-selective and beta-1 selective. There are also beta-2, and beta-3 selective drugs; neither has a known clinical purpose to date. Non-selective agents bind to both beta-1 and beta-2 receptors and induce antagonizing effects via both receptors. Examples include propranolol, carvedilol, sotalol, and labetalol. Beta-1 receptor selective blockers like atenolol, bisoprolol, metoprolol, and esmolol only bind to the beta-1 receptors therefor are cardio-selective.[2][3][4]

Beta-blockers lower the secretion of melatonin and hence may cause insomnia and sleep changes in some patients.[5]

Alpha-1 receptors induce vasoconstriction and increased cardiac chronotropy; this means agonism at the alpha-1 receptors leads to higher blood pressure and an increased heart rate. In contrast, antagonism at the alpha-1 receptor leads to vasodilation and negative chronotropic which leads to lower blood pressure and decreased heart rate. Some beta blockers, such as carvedilol, labetalol, and bucindolol, have additional alpha-1 receptor blockage activity in addition to their non-selective beta receptor blockage. This property is clinically useful because beta blockers that also block the alpha-1 receptor have a more pronounced clinical effect on treating hypertension.[6]

Administration

Beta blockers are available in oral, intravenous, or ophthalmic form and can be also injected intramuscularly.

Dosages are available in various ranges, depending on the specific medication.

Adverse Effects

Beta receptors are found all over the body and induce a broad range of physiologic effects. Blockage of these receptors with beta-blocker medications can lead to many adverse effects. Bradycardia and hypotension are two adverse effects that may commonly occur. Fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and constipation are also widely reported. Some patients report sexual dysfunction and erectile dysfunction.

Less commonly, bronchospasm presents in patients on beta blockers. Asthmatic patients are at a higher risk.[7] Patients with Raynaud syndrome are also at risk of exacerbation. Beta blockers can induce both hyperglycemia and mask the hemodynamic signs usually seen in a hypoglycemic patient, such as tachycardia.

Some patients report insomnia, sleep changes and nightmares while using beta blockers. This effect is more pronounced with beta blockers that cross the blood-brain barrier.

Carvedilol may increase edema in some patients.[8]

Sotalol blocks the potassium channels in the heart and thereby induces QT prolongation. It increases the risk of torsades de pointes.[9]

All beta blockers, especially in patients with cardiac risk factors, carry a risk of heart block.

Contraindications

Traditionally, beta blockers have been contraindicated in asthmatic patients. However, recommendations have aligned for allowing cardio-selective beta blockers, also known as beta-1 selective, in asthmatics but not non-selective beta blockers.

Beta blockers should not be used in patients who have cocaine-induced coronary vasospasm. There is a significant risk of unopposed alpha receptor activity which would worsen the vasospasm. Agonist activity at the alpha receptor leads to increased vasoconstriction and increased cardiac chronotropy.[10]

Patients who have either acute or chronic bradycardia and/or hypotension have relatively contraindication to beta-blocker usage.

Specific beta blockers are contraindicated depending on the patient's past medical history. Patients diagnosed with long QT syndrome or who have had torsades de pointes in the past should not use the drug sotalol. Patients with Raynaud phenomenon should avoid beta blockers due to the risk of exacerbation.[11][9]

Monitoring

The patient's heart rate and blood pressure should be generally monitored while using beta blockers. When specifically using sotalol, the QTc interval requires monitoring as sotalol has QT-prolonging effects.[12]

Toxicity

The antidote for beta-blocker overdose is glucagon. It is especially useful in beta-blocker-induced cardiotoxicity. The second line of treatment is cardiac pacing if glucagon fails.

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

Beta blockers are a broad class of medications that are used for various clinical benefits but also carry the potential for adverse effects. They are prescribed by physicians and nurse practitioners in both the outpatient and inpatient settings, largely for the treatment of cardiovascular-related illnesses. While a patient is admitted to an inpatient ward, monitoring the clinical effects and potential adverse effects is a multidisciplinary task. Nurses will generally be the first caregivers to take note of any unwanted effects, such as a change in vital signs. In contrast, outpatient settings differ in that the pharmacist may be the closest line of healthcare contact for a patient. The pharmacist will dispense the medication and also advise the patient of any potential adverse effects. It is also imperative to take note of any patients who are currently on beta blockers as it provides a clinical context for potential symptoms. Many clinical trials have been conducted on beta-blockers and shown them to prolong life in patients with cardiovascular disease.[13][14][15] (Level II) It is important for the healthcare team to prescribe, manage, and monitor the use of beta blockers in a safe and effective manner. [Level V]


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Beta Blockers - Questions

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How does propranolol decrease angina?



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By what mechanism of action does propranolol work to reduce angina?



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Which of the following antihypertensive medications should be used with caution in people with asthma?



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Beta blockers, when used for the treatment of hypertension, can also cause a few adverse reactions. Which of the following adverse effects is unlikely to occur?



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Which of the following will decrease myocardial oxygen demand?



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Which antihypertensive medication can cause an acute exacerbation of asthma?



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Which of the following is a class II antiarrhythmic drug?



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Beta-blockers are not used in asthmatics because of which effect?



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In a 67-year old, the dose of beta-blockers should be increased until which of the following hemodynamic parameters is achieved?



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Which of the following medications can cause a reduction in cardiac output?



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Why is beta blocker therapy indicated for angina?



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Which of the following medications can improve long-term survival in patients with acute myocardial infarction?



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A patient has had severe asthma for several years. Which of the following medications could cause severe bronchospasm?



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In which condition is it acceptable to use beta-blockers for the treatment of hypertension?



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What is the primary purpose of propranolol in the treatment of hyperthyroidism?



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Which of the following medications is contraindicated in a patient with asthma?



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Which medication is least likely to increase insulin requirements in a patient with diabetes mellitus?



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Which of the following is a non-selective beta-adrenergic receptor blocker?



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Which of the following beta-adrenergic blockers have intrinsic sympathomimetic activity?



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Which of the following is safer to use in a patient with asthma that has been diagnosed with heart failure and needs to be treated with a beta-blocker?



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Which of the following is a contraindication for beta-blocker use?



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Which of the following beta-blockers also blocks alpha receptors?



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Which of the following beta-1 specific beta-blockers is used to treat postmyocardial infarction?



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Which of the following should be used with caution in patients who have asthma?



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Which monitoring parameter should be used when treating a patient for hypertension with a combination of a beta-adrenergic blocker and a calcium channel blocker?



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Which of the following drugs has a mechanism of action that is similar to Blocadren?



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Which is the only prophylactic agent found to have some effect on the incidence of postoperative supraventricular arrhythmias in open-heart surgery patients?



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Both beta-blockers and acetylcholine-esterase inhibitors are used in glaucoma management. However, there are certain aspects of these drugs as applies to asthma patients that must be considered. Which of the following statements correctly characterizes that relationship?



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A 57-year-old with a past medical history of atrial flutter is started on a beta blocker. His electrocardiogram (ECG) on presentation shows an irregular heart rhythm, no ST segment changes and a QTc of 417 ms. A repeat ECG is performed during the patient's follow-up visit two weeks after. It show's a QTc of 491 ms. What is the most likely medication responsible for this change?



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Which three beta blockers are FDA-approved for the treatment of congestive heart failure (CHF)?



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A 67-year-old male presents to the clinic with a recent diagnosis of systolic cardiomyopathy with an ejection fraction of 45%. He is currently asymptomatic. The patient recently underwent a coronary angiogram that revealed insignificant coronary artery disease. At this time, the addition of which beta blocker to his regimen would be most appropriate?



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Beta Blockers - References

References

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Regular Treatment Strategy with a Large Amount of Carvedilol for Heart Failure Improves Biventricular Systolic Failure in a Patient with Repaired Tetralogy of Fallot., Soma K,Yao A,Saito A,Inaba T,Ishikawa Y,Hirata Y,Komuro I,, International heart journal, 2018 Aug 11     [PubMed]
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Pham D,Addison D,Kayani W,Misra A,Jneid H,Resar J,Lakkis N,Alam M, Outcomes of beta blocker use in cocaine-associated chest pain: a meta-analysis. Emergency medicine journal : EMJ. 2018 Sep     [PubMed]
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