Therapeutic approaches to the management of heart failure have traditionally focused on short-term hemodynamic and symptomatic goals, but present evidence suggests that most therapeutic decisions have long-term consequences. Treatment may change the rate of disease progression, modify the need for additional therapy, influence the number of hospitalizations, and alter the risk of death. However, there may be little relation between a drug's short-term effect on cardiac function or cardiovascular symptoms and its long-term effect on survival. Some therapeutic interventions favorably influence the outcome of patients with heart failure, even though they exert negative inotropic effects; others adversely affect the outcome of patients, even though they markedly improve cardiac performance. This discordance might be explained if the most important predictor of response to a therapeutic intervention in heart failure were the effect of the pharmacologic agent on neurohormonal systems rather than on hemodynamic variables. In general, drugs that decrease the effects of the sympathetic nervous system (digitalis glycosides) and the renin-angiotensin system (angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitors) reduce the risk of worsening heart failure. Conversely, drugs that potentiate the effects, or increase the activity, of the sympathetic nervous system (phosphodiesterase inhibitors) or the renin-angiotensin system (calcium antagonists) increase cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. These observations suggest that physicians should no longer focus on short-term hemodynamic or symptomatic goals in the treatment of heart failure but, instead, should manage patients to improve both the quality and quantity of life.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine