Current drugs and medical treatment algorithms in the management of acute decompensated heart failure
Background: Acute decompensated heart failure (ADHF) is associated with increased hospitalization rates and high in-hospital mortality, and has emerged as a major public health problem over the past decade. In recent years, several new drugs and therapeutic approaches have failed to reduce short- and long-term morbidity and mortality in ADHF patients. New agents and strategies are under investigation in order to effectively reduce the mortality and morbidity in these patients. Objective: To review the recent experimental and clinical evidence on existing therapeutic algorithms and investigational drugs used for the treatment of ADHF. Methods: A systematic search of peer-reviewed publications was performed on Medline and EMBASE from January 1995 to January 2009. The results of unpublished trials were obtained from presentations at national and international meetings. Results: Renal dysfunction and low systolic blood pressure (SBP) remain the main predictors of adverse clinical outcomes in ADHF patients. Thus, therapy should be tailored according to the level of SBP at admission, renal function and fluid retention. ADHF due to hypertensive disease should be treated with intravenous vasodilators and diuretics at low doses, while patients with low output syndrome need mainly inotropic support. However, few agents currently employed in the treatment of ADHF have been shown in large prospective randomized clinical trials to improve clinical outcomes. The calcium sensitizer levosimendan is superior than traditional inotropes in improving central hemodynamics and neurohormonal response in ADHF patients, without increasing their long-term survival. Vasopressin antagonists also seem to be promising and safe drugs in the treatment of ADHF patients, facilitating diuresis on top of standard-care therapy. Encouraging novel therapies include adenosine receptor antagonists, ularitide, istaroxime, cardiac myosin activators and relaxin. Conclusions: Clinical scenarios based on SBP are essential determinants of therapeutic approaches used for the management of ADHF. Traditional drugs (diuretics, dobutamine and milrinone) have several limitations in real clinical practice, and increase mortality rates. Investigational drugs targeting to novel pathophysiologic concepts are promising treatment approaches and ongoing trials will define their clinical efficacy and safety.