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Semin Nephrol. 2005 Nov;25(6):397-403.

Erythropoietin in heart failure.

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Department of Nephrology, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Tel Aviv, Israel.


The incidence of both congestive heart failure (CHF) and end-stage renal disease both are increasing. Anemia is common in both conditions and is associated with a marked increase in mortality and morbidity in both CHF and chronic kidney insufficiency (CKI). Each of these 3 conditions can cause or worsen the other 2. In other words, a vicious circle frequently is present in which CHF can cause or worsen both anemia and CKI, in which CKI can cause or worsen both anemia and CHF, and in which anemia can cause or worsen both CHF and CKI. We have called this vicious circle the cardio renal anemia syndrome. Optimal treatment of CHF with all the recommended CHF medications at their recommended doses will, in our experience, frequently fail to improve the CHF and CKI if anemia is present and is not corrected. On the other hand, correction of the anemia with subcutaneous erythropoietin and intravenous iron has caused a great improvement in the CHF including a marked improvement in patient and cardiac function and a marked reduction in the need for hospitalization and for high-dose diuretics. It also frequently has caused renal function to improve or at least stabilize. In addition, patients' quality of life and exercise capacity also have improved with the correction of the anemia. In CKI patients, anemia also may play an important role in increasing the risk for death, coronary heart disease, stroke, and progression to end-stage renal disease. Erythropoietin may have a direct positive effect on the heart and brain unrelated to correction of the anemia by reducing cell apoptosis and by increasing neovascularization, both of which could prevent tissue damage. This could have profound therapeutic implications not only in CHF but in the future treatment of myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease, strokes, and renal failure.

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