Vasodilators in acute heart failure - evidence based on new studies

Published:February 24, 2018DOI:


      • Acute heart failure (AHF) is associated with poor prognosis and high mortality.
      • Mortality benefits of vasodilators in AHF are not established and lack evidence.
      • Well-designed and large-scale trials are needed to establish firm conclusions.
      • The results of trials on vasodilators such as serelaxin are expected.


      Acute heart failure (AHF) contributes largely to the worldwide burden of heart failure (HF) and is associated with high mortality, poor prognosis and high rehospitalization rate. The pharmacologic therapy of AHF includes diuretics and vasodilators, which are a keystone when fluid overload and congestion are present. However, vasodilators are mainly focused on controlling symptoms, and drugs that also improve long-term mortality and morbidity seem to be in high demand. In this review, we summarize the existing evidence on mortality benefits of IV vasodilators in AHF.
      There is lack of evidence on the mortality benefits of IV vasodilators in AHF, as well as well-designed and large-scale trials for some of them. The existing trials on nitrates have conflicting results and are insufficient to establish definitive conclusions. Other vasodilators, such as enalaprilat, clevidipine, carperitide, and ularitide, have been evaluated only in a few trials assessing mortality. Levosimendan, nesititide and carperitide are approved by some regulatory agencies; however, data regarding mortality are also conflicting and large-scale post-marketing studies would be important. Serelaxin is a recent therapy with a novel mechanism of action and seemed to be promising; although serelaxin was safe and well tolerated in earlier trials, the results of a larger phase III trial failed to meet the primary endpoints of reduction in cardiovascular death at day 180 and reduction of worsening heart failure at day 5.
      The absence of definitive mortality benefits and high-quality and large-scale data not allow firm conclusions to be drawn about the role of IV vasodilators in AHF. Well-designed studies are needed to clarify the role of these drugs in the long-term outcome of AHF, as well as new therapies entering the clinical investigation.


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