Treatment of congestive heart failure: guidelines for the primary care physician and the heart failure specialist

Arch Intern Med. 2001 Feb 12;161(3):342-52. doi: 10.1001/archinte.161.3.342.


During the past 10 years, the philosophy of heart failure treatment has evolved from symptom control to a combined prevention and symptom-management strategy. Recent clinical trials have proved that early detection can delay progression. Treatment of asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction is as important as treatment of symptomatic disease. The purpose of this review is to simplify recent guidelines for pharmacological management of chronic systolic heart failure for the primary care physician and the heart failure specialist. Early recognition and prevention therapies, combined with lifestyle modification, are essential in the treatment of heart failure. Therapy with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, beta-blockers, and diuretics is now standard. Digoxin is added to improve clinical symptoms, especially in patients with atrial fibrillation. Aldosterone antagonists may be recommended in select patients with stable New York Heart Association class III or IV heart failure. If angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors are not tolerated, angiotensin receptor blockers, hydralazine hydrochloride, and isosorbide dinitrate are recommended. The data on antiarrhythmic and anticoagulation therapies are inconclusive.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use
  • Disease Progression
  • Enalapril / therapeutic use
  • Heart Failure / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / drug therapy


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Enalapril