Diabetes mellitus is frequently accompanied by specific abnormalities of the renin-angiotensin system, but it is not known whether these alterations modify the response to converting enzyme inhibition. To evaluate this possibility, 129 patients with severe chronic heart failure were treated with captopril or enalapril for one to three months, while doses of digoxin and diuretics were kept constant; 35 patients had diabetes mellitus. Prior to therapy, diabetic patients had lower plasma renin activity (3.4 ± 0.5 versus 7.0 ± 1.1 ng/ml/hour) than did nondiabetic control subjects (p <0.05); yet the initial hemodynamic response to captopril was similar in both groups. Plasma renin activity predicted the hypotensive response to the first dose of captopril in nondiabetic control subjects (r = 0.70, p <0.001) but not in diabetic patients (r = 0.29). During long-term treatment with captopril or enalapril, both diabetic and nondiabetic patients had similar increases in cardiac index and decreases in mean arterial pressure and systemic vascular resistance. Diabetic patients, however, showed larger reductions in left ventricular filling pressure (-13.8 versus -9.1 mm Hg, p <0.02) and mean right atrial pressure (-6.2 versus -3.9 mm Hg, p <0.05) than did nondiabetic subjects; this was accompanied by a notable decline in body weight in diabetic patients only. Renal function remained unaltered during converting enzyme inhibition in nondiabetic patients, but deteriorated significantly in diabetic patients, as reflected by a marked increase in serum creatinine concentration (1.7 ± 0.1 to 2.1 ± 0.1 mg/dl, p <0.001). In conclusion, despite lower pretreatment plasma renin activity, diabetic patients with severe chronic heart failure demonstrated improvement during long-term converting enzyme inhibition to a degree similar to (if not greater than) that seen in nondiabetic control subjects, but were more susceptible to the development of functional renal insufficiency than their nondiabetic counterparts. These differences are explicable by abnormalities of renin/aldosterone synthesis and angiotensin-mediated vasoregulation that are known to be present in the diabetic state.
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