Rational use of inotropic therapy in heart failure.
Despite their theoretic appeal, agents that increase cardiac contractility (positive inotropes) have consistently been shown to increase mortality when given chronically to patients with heart failure. The routine use of inotropes as heart failure therapy in either the acute or the chronic setting is not supported by the available data. Some appropriate uses of inotropes are as temporary treatment of diuretic-refractory acute heart failure decompensations, or as a bridge to definitive treatment such as revascularization or cardiac transplantation. Although controversial, the use of inotropes as a palliative measure in the small subset of patients with truly end-stage heart failure may be appropriate. An understanding of the appropriate goals of therapy is important for both patients and physicians if rational decisions about the use of inotropes are to be made.
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