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Circulation. 1998 Nov 17;98(20):2141-7.

Influence of the novel inotropic agent levosimendan on isometric tension and calcium cycling in failing human myocardium.

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Zentrum Innere Medizin, Abteilung für Kardiologie und Pneumologie, Universität Göttingen, Germany.



Levosimendan was shown to increase calcium sensitivity by a novel mechanism and to inhibit phosphodiesterase III activity in animal myocardium.


We investigated the influence of levosimendan on isometric contractions and calcium transients (aequorin method) in muscle strips from human hearts with end-stage failing dilated or ischemic cardiomyopathy (n=27). Data were compared with the effects of the phosphodiesterase inhibitor milrinone (n=9). The average maximum increase in twitch tension was 47+/-14% (range, 6% to 150%) at a levosimendan concentration of 0. 8+/-0.3 micromol/L (P<0.01). This was associated with significant increases in maximum rates of tension rise and fall and decreases in times to peak tension, to 50% relaxation, and to 95% relaxation. In aequorin-loaded muscles, levosimendan 10(-6) mol/L increased average tension by 50% (P<0.02), associated with a nonsignificant increase in aequorin light (16%). With milrinone 10(-5) mol/L, average tension increased by 58% and aequorin light by 49% (P<0.05). In those muscle strips with pronounced inotropic effects (>50% increase in tension), there was a comparable and pronounced increase in aequorin light with both agents. However, in muscle strips with weak inotropic responses (<50% increase in tension), the increase in light was significantly higher with milrinone than with levosimendan.


Levosimendan has inotropic and lusitropic actions in failing human myocardium. Comparison with the phosphodiesterase inhibitor milrinone indicates that in case of pronounced inotropic stimulation, the modes of action of the two agents may be similar (phosphodiesterase inhibition), whereas small inotropic effects of levosimendan may result predominantly from calcium sensitization.

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