Recent studies have more clearly defined the role of drug therapy in patients with chronic congestive heart failure (CHF). Treatment of patients with asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction (New York Heart Association [NYHA] class I) cannot be recommended at this time. The benefit of prophylactic treatment with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) or vasodilators in patients at high risk for developing symptomatic CHF is currently being evaluated. Treatment of patients with symptomatic CHF (NYHA class II-IV) should be initiated with a combination of a diuretic, digoxin, and an ACEI. This combination has been shown to reduce the mortality rate in patients with NYHA class II-IV CHF. Patients who remain symptomatic despite treatment with this combination may benefit from the addition of the direct-acting, nonspecific vasodilators—hydralazine and a nitrate. The addition of the nonspecific vasodilators to an ACEI has not been tested in controlled trials. In patients who remain symptomatic despite treatment with diuretics, digoxin, ACEIs, and nonspecific vasodilators, treatment options are not clear. The use of beta-agonists, phosphodiesterase inhibitors, and intermittent fixed-dose, fixed-interval dobutamine should be avoided as these agents are associated with a high mortality rate. Heart transplantation should be considered early in the course of CHF to allow for preservation of other vital organ systems. Unfortunately, heart transplantation is available to only a very small minority of potential transplant candidates.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pharmacology (medical)