New insights into mechanisms of action of carvedilol treatment in chronic heart failure patients--a matter of time for contractility

J Card Fail. 2012 Mar;18(3):183-93. doi: 10.1016/j.cardfail.2011.11.004. Epub 2011 Dec 22.


Background: It is unclear whether improvement in left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction (LVEF) following treatment with a combined α(1),β(1),β(2)-blockade can be attributed to improvement in LV contractility, to a reduction in afterload, and/or to improvements in LV remodeling and chamber size. We aimed to examine whether the observed improvement in LVEF following carvedilol treatment is due to changes in intrinsic myocardial contractility beyond changes in LV chamber size or loading conditions.

Methods and results: In 49 consecutive patients with chronic heart failure (HF), LVEF ≤35%, NYHA functional class II-IV, on angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors but not on ß-blockers, LV contractile performance and remodeling were assessed by comprehensive echocardiography at baseline and after 3 and 6 months of treatment with carvedilol. Carvedilol treatment resulted in significant improvements in LVEF, shortening fraction, and velocity of circumferential shortening (VCF(c)). There were no significant changes in the mean arterial blood pressure or systemic vascular resistance index; but LV end-systolic wall stress (LVESS), effective arterial elastance, ventriculoarterial coupling, and LV end-diastolic and end-systolic dimensions and volumes were significantly reduced. Estimated end-systolic elastance, VCF(c)-to-LVESS ratio, and pulsatile arterial compliance significantly improved after 6 months of treatment with carvedilol. The slope of the VCF(c) relationship to LVESS worsened from 0 to 3 months, but significantly improved from 3 to 6 months.

Conclusions: Despite an initial transient negative inotropic effect from 0 to 3 months, carvedilol treatment was associated with a positive inotropic effect with significant improvement in load-independent indexes of myocardial contractility beyond what can be attributed to changes in LV chamber size and load after 3 months. There were no changes in systemic vascular resistance with carvedilol treatment; however, improvement in pulsatile arterial compliance and ventriculoarterial coupling suggested enhanced cardiac mechanoenergetic performance along with improved systemic arterial compliance.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carbazoles / therapeutic use*
  • Carvedilol
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / drug therapy*
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Contraction / drug effects*
  • Propanolamines / therapeutic use*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Ventricular Function, Left


  • Carbazoles
  • Propanolamines
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Carvedilol