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Chest. 1992 Nov;102(5 Suppl 2):626S-632S.

Pathogenesis and management of acute heart failure and cardiogenic shock: role of inotropic therapy.

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  • 1Cardiology Division, University of Texas Medical School, Houston.


Patients with acute heart failure or cardiogenic shock following myocardial infarction have a high mortality. The first priority is to salvage any remaining viable myocardium, either by thrombolytic agents or, if necessary, by coronary angioplasty. A mechanical cause for the heart failure or shock needs to be excluded. Thereafter, the optimal therapeutic regimen needs to be chosen on the basis of each patient's hemodynamic profile. Patients can be broadly classified into three groups: (1) patients with a high left ventricular filling pressure (> 18 mm Hg) and a cardiac index < 2.2 L/min/m2 but systolic arterial pressure > 100 mm Hg; (2) patients with a systolic arterial pressure < 90 mm Hg, left ventricular filling pressure > 18 mm Hg, and cardiac index < 2.2 L/min/m2; and (3) patients with an elevated right ventricular filling pressure (> 10 mm Hg) and cardiac index < 2.2 L/min/m2 and a systolic arterial pressure < 100 mm Hg. Patients in the first subset usually require the use of vasodilator therapy and/or dobutamine. The choice of inotropic agent in patients in the second hemodynamic subset depends on the degree of systemic hypotension; dopamine is usually preferred initially because it increases arterial pressure in addition to improving cardiac output. Once the systemic blood pressure has been stabilized, dobutamine can be substituted for superior augmentation of cardiac output and its additional beneficial effects on the left ventricular filling pressure. Norepinephrine may be indicated in cases of severe systemic hypotension. Patients in hemodynamic subset 3, ie, right ventricular infarction, are treated with volume expansion and dobutamine. Use of nonpharmacologic means of circulatory support, eg, intra-aortic balloon pump or left ventricular assist device may also be required in any of these subsets.

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