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Circulation. 1993 Jun;87(6 Suppl):VI40-8.

Plasma norepinephrine, plasma renin activity, and congestive heart failure. Relations to survival and the effects of therapy in V-HeFT II. The V-HeFT VA Cooperative Studies Group.

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Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis 55455.



Congestive heart failure is a clinical syndrome characterized by neuroendocrine activation. Measurements of plasma norepinephrine and plasma renin activity were performed in the Vasodilator-Heart Failure Trial II (V-HeFT II) to characterize the effect of therapy on neuroendocrine activation and to examine the responses to therapy among patients with different degrees of activation.


The baseline median plasma norepinephrine value (n = 743) was 490 pg/mL and the baseline median plasma renin activity (n = 737) was 6.9 ng.mL-1 x hr-1. Baseline plasma renin activity and plasma norepinephrine correlated poorly with each other (r = 0.12), implying that these two neuroendocrine systems are being activated by separate processes. By univariate analysis, the logarithms of the plasma norepinephrine (p < 0.0001) and the plasma renin activity (p = 0.01) were significantly related to all-cause mortality. In a multivariate analysis that included other significant univariate prognostic variables (i.e., baseline ejection fraction, peak oxygen consumption during exercise, and cardiothoracic ratio), log plasma norepinephrine but not plasma renin activity remained a significant (p = 0.02) predictor of mortality. Baseline plasma norepinephrine correlated poorly with baseline left ventricular ejection fraction (r = -0.18), peak oxygen consumption (r = -0.15), and cardiothoracic ratio (r = 0.11). Neither the plasma norepinephrine (r = 0.09) nor the plasma renin activity (r = 0.18) was closely associated with a quality of life assessment at baseline. The baseline plasma norepinephrine level in patients randomized to enalapril (mean, 593 +/- 388 [SD] pg/mL; n = 372) and to hydralazine and isosorbide dinitrate (mean, 544 +/- 297 pg/mL; n = 371) were similar. Thirteen weeks after randomization, plasma norepinephrine did not change (-5 +/- 393 pg/mL) in 312 patients randomized to enalapril but increased significantly by 74 +/- 311 pg/mL (p < 0.0001) in 300 patients assigned to hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate. The plasma norepinephrine increased significantly more in patients assigned to hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate than those on enalapril at both 13 weeks (p = 0.01) and at 1 year (p = 0.04) (90 +/- 302 pg/mL [n = 240] versus 14 +/- 376 pg/mL [n = 265]). Based on previous reports and examination of survival among several plasma norepinephrine strata, the baseline plasma norepinephrine data were grouped into three relatively homogeneous strata for further analysis. The cumulative mortality was significantly different between the three strata (p < 0.0001). The patients with plasma norepinephrine > 900 pg/mL had a higher mortality than those with corresponding values from 601 to 900 pg/mL or < 600 pg/mL. The survival benefit of enalapril compared with hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate was most evident in those patients with a plasma norepinephrine value > 900 pg/mL. Although the plasma renin activity was not strongly associated with survival, patients in the upper quartile (> 16 ng.mL-1 x hr-1) had the worst prognosis. Among this group, the patients on enalapril demonstrated significantly better survival than those on hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate (p = 0.02).


This study confirms that plasma norepinephrine is an independent predictor of prognosis in patients with congestive heart failure. Hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate treatment, unlike enalapril treatment, was associated with increased plasma norepinephrine concentration during the first year of follow-up. The enalapril group had a significantly lower mortality, and this survival benefit of enalapril as compared with hydralazine-isosorbide dinitrate was most evident among patients with the most marked neuroendocrine activation. Neuroendocrine activation is an important prognostic factor for patients with congestive heart failure and is an important determinant of the differential response to vasodilators.

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