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Risks and benefits of the treatment of heart failure. Current status

Risks and benefits of the treatment of heart failure. Current status

Drug Safety 6(4): 277-284

Congestive heart failure is an increasingly common patient problem. It is a multisystem disease that involves not only the heart but also the kidneys and neurohormonal systems. Any treatment for heart failure should address depressed contractility and exercise intolerance, as well as control compensatory mechanisms. There are many different approaches to the treatment of congestive heart failure: among the drugs used are diuretics, digitalis compounds, nitrates, calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, beta-agonists, vasodilators, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and the new phosphodiesterase inhibitors. The therapy usually involves a multiple drug treatment plan to achieve the maximum effect for the patient with the lowest incidence of side effects. Heart failure involves a large spectrum of patients with left ventricular dysfunction, and success at achieving treatment goals with these patients will vary with the severity of that symptom. A major concern is that increasing contractility may further damage the myocardium and shorten the survival of these patients, although there is as yet no evidence of such shortening. The new phosphodiesterase inhibitor drugs are an exciting development in the treatment of heart failure, because they add a dimension to the treatment for patients who are not sufficiently improved by a regimen of digoxin, diuretics and ACE inhibitors. Any new heart failure medication should be able to improve rest and exercise haemodynamics, maintain its benefits when given orally and result in an improved exercise capacity and quality of life, and prolonged survival.

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Accession: 041279217

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PMID: 1888443

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