Nervous system control mechanisms in heart failure.

J. N. Cohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Alterations in the peripheral circulation by influencing aortic impedance and venous capacitance have a remarkable effect on cardiac performance in patients with left ventricular dysfunction. Systemic vasoconstriction in heart failure is influenced by activation of the sympathetic nervous system (increased plasma norepinephrine), the renin-angiotensin system (increased PRA) and the antidiuretic hormone system (increased arginine vasopressin). The level of plasma norepinephrine is related weakly to the severity of resting left ventricular dysfunction and strongly to the subsequent risk of mortality. Attenuation of reflex responsiveness to low pressure mechanoreceptors (orthostatic tilt) and to carotid and aortic baroreceptors (nitroprusside infusion) occurs in heart failure and the degree of abnormality also may be related to mortality. Vasodilation with consequent improvement in left ventricular function may be accomplished by non-specific dilators (nitroprusside, nitrates, hydralazine, nitrendipine) or by specific interference with neurohumoral mechanisms (sympathetic blockade, converting enzyme blockade, AVP blockade). Plasma norepinephrine may be reduced by central or presynaptic mechanisms (guanabenz, bromocriptine, captopril). The hemodynamic effect of this anti-sympathetic effect appears to be related to the relative influence on cardiac vs. peripheral sympathetic tone and/or concomitant effects of the drugs. Long-term trials are needed to determine whether chronic inhibition of the sympathetic nervous system will have a salutary effect on the hemodynamics, symptomatology and prognosis of cardiac failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-20
Number of pages6
JournalActa medica Scandinavica. Supplementum
Issue numberSUPPL. 707
StatePublished - 1986


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