Background: Diuretics have been accepted as first-line treatment in refractory congestive heart failure (CHF), but a lack of response to them is a frequent event. A randomized, single-blind study was performed to evaluate the effects of the combination of high-dose furosemide and small-volume hypertonic saline solution (HSS) infusion in the treatment of refractory New York Heart Association (NYHA) class IV CHF and a normosodic diet during follow-up. Materials and Methods One hundred seven patients (39 women and 68 men, age range 65-90 years) with refractory CHF (NYHA class IV) of different etiologies, who were unresponsive to high oral doses of furosemide, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, digitalis, and nitrates, were enrolled. Inclusion criteria included an ejection fraction (EF) <35%, serum creatinine level <2 mg/dL, blood urea nitrogen level < or =60 mg/dL, reduced urinary volume, and low natriuresis. The patients were randomized in 2 groups (single-blind). Patients in group 1 (20 women and 33 men) received an intravenous (IV) infusion of furosemide (500-1000 mg) plus HSS (150 mL of 1.4%-4.6% NACl) twice a day in 30 minutes. Patients in group 2 (19 women and 35 men) received an IV bolus of furosemide (500-1000 mg) twice a day, without HSS, during a period lasting 6 to 12 days. Both groups received IV KCl (20-40 mEq) to prevent hypokalemia. At study entry, all patients underwent a physical examination and measurement of body weight (BW), blood pressure (BP), and heart rate (HR), an evaluation of signs of CHF, and measurement of control levels of serum Na, K, Cl, bicarbonate, albumin, uric acid, creatinine, urea, and glycemia daily during hospitalization, and measurements of the daily output of urine for Na, K, and Cl. A chest radiograph, electrocardiogram, and echocardiogram were obtained at study entry, during hospitalization, and at the time of discharge from the hospital. During the treatment and after discharge, the daily dietary Na intake was 120 mmol in group 1 versus 80 mmol in group 2, with a fluid intake of 1000 mL daily in both groups. An assessment of BW and 24-hour urinary volume, serum, and urinary laboratory parameters were performed daily until patients reached a compensated state, when IV furosemide was replaced with oral administration (250-500 mg/d). After discharge from the hospital, patients were observed as outpatients weekly for the first 3 months and, subsequently, once a month.
Results: The groups were similar in age, sex, EF, risk factors, treatment, and etiology of CHF. All patients showed a clinical improvement. Ten patients in both groups had hyponatremia at entry. A significant increase in daily diuresis and natriuresis was observed in both groups, but it was more significant in the group receiving HSS (P <.05). The serum Na level increased in group 1 and decreased in group 2 (P <.05). The serum K level was decreased in both groups (P <.05). BW was reduced in both groups (P <.05). Group 2 had an increase in serum creatinine level. Serum uric acid levels increased in both groups. BP values decreased and HR was corrected to normal values in both groups. In the follow-up period (31 +/- 14 months), 25 patients from group 1 were readmitted to the hospital for heart failure. In group 2, 43 patients were readmitted to the hospital at a higher class than at discharge. Twenty-four patients in group 1 died during follow-up, versus 47 patients in group 2 (P <.001).
Conclusion: This treatment is effective and well tolerated, improves the quality of life through the relief of signs and symptoms of congestion, and may delay more aggressive treatments. The effects were also beneficial in a long period for mortality reduction (55% vs 13% survival rate) and for clinical improvement.