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Cardiol Rev. 2000 Mar-Apr;8(2):104-14.

Diuretic therapy in congestive heart failure.

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Aberford Court, Aberford, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom.


The principal goals of treatment of the patient in heart failure are the relief of their symptoms and improvement in their prognosis. Of all antiheart failure drugs currently available, the diuretics are therapeutically superior in their efficacy in relieving clinical symptoms and signs. Whether administered intravenously or orally, all diuretics result in a substantial reduction in the raised pulmonary vascular pressures in combination with a small reduction in cardiac output. Diuretics stimulate release of renin with subsequent activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, particularly if used in large doses, although their quantitative impact on the neuroendocrine profile at different stages of heart failure remains to be defined. In patients with mild heart failure, diuretics reduce plasma catecholamine concentrations, but their sympatholytic effects in more severe cases are unknown, as are their effects on the metabolically active tissues in these patients. Diuretic resistance can be circumvented by segmental nephron blockade with a combination of low-dose diuretics that simultaneously block sodium reabsorption in the proximal tubule, the loop of Henle, the distal tubule, and the collecting duct. Diuretics improve symptoms of breathlessness and signs of peripheral edema in patients with congestive heart failure in direct relationship to the induced diuresis. These benefits are frequently associated with a substantial improvement in patients' appreciation of quality of life and economic capacity. There are few adverse reactions to chronic diuretic therapy, but the serum electrolytes should be monitored for hypokalemia and hypomagnesemia. The impact of diuretics on prognosis of patients with congestive heart failure is unknown; however, diuretics have been a major ingredient of the therapies used in all the survival trials with vasodilators, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and beta-blocking drugs. In addition to their clinical benefits, diuretics are the most cost-effective treatment of any single drug group currently available for the treatment of patients with congestive heart failure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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