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Circ Heart Fail. 2009 Jul;2(4):370-6. doi: 10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.108.821199.

Sodium retention in heart failure and cirrhosis: potential role of natriuretic doses of mineralocorticoid antagonist?

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Department of Medicine, Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension and the Division of Cardiology, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, CO, USA.


Patients with cirrhosis and heart failure (HF) share the pathophysiology of decreased effective arterial blood volume because of splanchnic vasodilatation in cirrhosis and decreased cardiac output in HF, with resultant stimulation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. Hyperaldosteronism plays a major role in the pathogenesis of ascites and contributes to resistance to loop diuretics. Therefore, the use of high doses of aldosterone antagonist (spironolactone up to 400 mg/day) is the main therapy to produce a negative sodium balance in cirrhotic patients with ascites. Hyperaldosteronism also has increasingly been recognized as a risk factor for myocardial and vascular fibrosis. Therefore, low-dose aldosterone antagonists are being used in patients with HF for cardioprotective action. However, the doses (25 to 50 mg/day) at which they are being used in cardiac patients as reported in the Randomized Aldactone Evaluation Study are not natriuretic. It is likely, therefore, that the mortality benefit relates primarily from their effect on cardiac and vascular fibrosis. Resistance to commonly used loop diuretics is frequently present in patients with advanced HF. In patients with decompensated HF with volume overload who are loop diuretic resistant, ultrafiltration may be the only available option. This is, however, an invasive procedure. For these patients, natriuretic doses of aldosterone antagonists (spironolactone >50 mg/day) may be a potential option. The competitive natriuretic response of aldosterone antagonists is related to activity of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system: the higher the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system activity, the higher the dose of aldosterone antagonist required to produce natriuresis. This article will discuss the potential use of natriuretic doses of aldosterone antagonists in patients with HF, including the potential side effect of hyperkalemia.

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