Use and impact of inotropes and vasodilator therapy in hospitalized patients with severe heart failure

Am Heart J. 2007 Jan;153(1):98-104. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2006.09.005.


Background: Treatment of decompensated heart failure often includes the use of intravenous vasoactive medications, but the effect on outcome has not been clearly defined.

Methods: Data from 433 patients enrolled in the ESCAPE trial were analyzed to determine 6-month risks of all-cause mortality and all-cause mortality plus rehospitalization associated with the use of vasodilators, inotropes, and their combination. Patients had a mean left ventricular ejection fraction of 19%, 6-minute walk distance of 414 ft, and systolic blood pressure of 106 mm Hg. The main outcome measure was multivariable risk-adjusted 6-month hazard ratios (HRs).

Results: Overall 6-month mortality was 19%. Risk-adjusted HRs were not statistically significant for vasodilators (1.39, 95% CI 0.64-3.00), but were significant for inotropes (2.14, 95% CI 1.10-4.15) and the combination (4.81, 95% CI 2.34-9.90). Risk-adjusted 6-month mortality plus rehospitalization HRs were not significant for vasodilators (1.20, 95% CI 0.81-1.78, P = .37), but were significant for inotropes (1.96, 95% CI 1.37-2.82, P < .001) and their combination (2.90, 95% CI 1.88-4.48, P = .001). The decision to use vasodilators or inotropes was determined by hemodynamic parameters and renal function, but the main factor was treatment site.

Conclusions: In ESCAPE, the choice of medications was mainly determined by the treatment site. Use of inotropic agents was associated with adverse outcomes, whereas the use of vasodilators was not. Inotropes in combination with vasodilators identified a group with the highest mortality. Prospective studies are needed to establish the appropriate use of vasoactive medications in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiotonic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / drug therapy*
  • Heart Failure / mortality*
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Vasodilator Agents