Heart Failure Therapy at the Turn of the Century

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Major changes in the treatment of heart failure have occurred in the last fifty years that have had a dramatic effect on its morbidity and mortality. Over two hundred years have passed since the demonstration of the benefit of digitalis in heart failure to the development of potent loop diuretics. The observation that vasodilators could improve both cardiac function and mortality led to the investigation of the Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACEI). Although these agents had significant vasodilator properties, their major benefit appears to be related to their ability to effect remodeling of the failing left ventricle. The most recent randomized clinical trials demonstrate that Beta Adrenergic Blocking agents can provide an incremental effect on both mortality and morbidity when added to therapy with ACEI. Although these agents have improved the outlook for the heart failure patient, they have had very little effect on the improvement of left ventricular function. Future research must be directed at methods to deal with this issue by either changing the contractile properties of the cardiomyocyte by pharmacologic or electrical therapy or by transplanting functional cells that can increase the number of functioning contractile units.

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