Neurohumoral activation and progression of heart failure: Hypothetical and clinical considerations

Gary S. Francis

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39 Scopus citations


The model for heart failure has changed radically over the past 20 years. No longer a simple hemodynamic paradigm of pump dysfunction, heart failure is now characterized as a complex clinical syndrome with release of many neurohormones and cytokines, which are believed to be most responsible for progression of disease. This change in our understanding of the pathophysiology of heart failure has important therapeutic implications. Drugs designed to influence the myocardial contractile state have been found over the past few decades to have either a neutral or an adverse effect on long-term survival, whereas agents designed to block the renin-angiotensin- aldosterone and other neurohormonal systems have proved to be remarkably effective treatment. Recently, drugs designed to block excessive sympathetic nervous system activity have been demonstrated in well-controlled studies to be safe and effective forms of therapy for heart failure. Carvedilol, a nonselective β-adrenergic blocker with α1-blocking and antioxidant properties, is associated with prevention of progression of heart failure as manifested by improvement in left ventricular (LV) function, reduction in heart size, and improved survival in patients with New York Heart Association functional Class II and III symptoms. This improvement is observed equally in patients with ischemic and non-ischemic heart failure. It is tempting to speculate that β-adrenergic blockers prevent the progression of heart failure by reducing LV mass and LV chamber size. In essence, carvedilol, and perhaps other β-adrenergic blockers, appear to abrogate relentless LV remodeling which is typically associated with progression of heart failure. The combination of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and β- adrenergic blockers may be particularly effective in this regard, although more data on β-adrenergic blockers in patients with advanced heart failure are needed. Data from experimental heart failure animal models also suggest that endothelin (ET) subtype A (ET(A)) receptor blockers have the potential to lessen the pace of progressive LV remodeling. As our understanding of the neuroendocrine response to diminished cardiac performance improves, novel and even more imaginative neurohormonal and cytokine antagonists are likely to emerge as important new treatments for both hypertension and heart failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S16-S21
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Sep 17 1998


  • ET(A) inhibitors
  • Heart failure
  • Left ventricular remodeling
  • β-Adrenergic blockers


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