Congestive heart failure (CHF) remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States, especially among the elderly. Although an underlying disturbance in cardiac function can be identified in most patients, manifestations of the disease are greatly influenced by other factors, particularly neurohumoral and peripheral adaptive responses which occur secondary to impaired cardiac function. The renin‐angiotensin system (RAS) is integrally involved in the pathophysiology of CHF. Originally considered a humoral system, the RAS is now known to exist and operate within cardiac and vascular tissues. The importance of tissue‐specific renin‐angiotensin systems in CHF is presently under investigation. Most patients with symptomatic CHF benefit from the administration of an ACE inhibitor. Certain asymptomatic patients, such as those with severe left ventricular (LV) dysfunction and those who are at high risk for LV remodeling after anterior wall myocardial infarction, may also benefit from ACE inhibitor therapy. Diuretics and nitrates improve symptoms and often cardiac output in many patients with CHF. Although many new inotropic agents have been tested in CHF patients, none appear clinically superior to digitalis glycosides. The efficacy of digitalis glycosides in CHF may in part result from sympathoinhibitory properties such as the activation of baroreceptor mechanisms. Despite the fact that many CHF patients die from arrhythmias, treatment of asymptomatic ventricular arrhythmias in these patients is not recommended. Patients with symptomatic or sustained ventricular arrhythmias are best treated by a physician experienced in cardiac electrophysiology. Therapy with beta‐blocking drugs for CHF patients is controversial. Anticoagulants are recommended for selected patients with CHF. Finally, exercise therapy may improve functional capacity in some patients with CHF through its effects on peripheral blood vessels and skeletal muscle tissues.
- ACE inhibitors
- exercise therapy
- inotropic agents
- renin‐angiotensin system (RAS)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine