Levosimendan, a New Inotropic and Vasodilator Agent

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Abstract

Several clinical studies suggest substantial limitations of currently available positive inotropic substances, including β1-adrenoceptor agonists and phosphodiesterase III inhibitors in the short- and long-term treatment of heart failure. The reasons for these detrimental effects are related to the mechanism of action of these drugs, including increases in intracellular Ca2+ with subsequent increases in myocardial oxygen demand and arrhythmogenesis. Levosimendan, a myofilament Ca2+ sensitizer with inotropic effects, increases myocardial performance without substantial changes in oxygen consumption and with neutral effects on heart rhythm. In addition, levosimendan has vasodilatory effects that are achieved by stimulation of adenosine triphosphate–dependent potassium channels. This action may be of specific interest in the setting of myocardial ischemia. To date, levosimendan is approved in 31 countries worldwide, and more patients with heart failure have participated in randomized controlled trials with levosimendan than with any other intravenous inotropic agent.

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