Diuretics: a review and update

J Cardiovasc Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Jan;19(1):5-13. doi: 10.1177/1074248413497257. Epub 2013 Nov 15.


Diuretics have been recommended as first-line treatment of hypertension and are also valuable in the management of hypervolemia and electrolyte disorders. This review summarizes the key features of the most commonly used diuretics. We then provide an update of clinical trials for diuretics during the past 5 years. Compared to other classes of medications, thiazide diuretics are at least as effective in reducing cardiovascular events (CVEs) in patients with hypertension and are more effective than β-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors in reducing stroke. Observational cohort data and a network analysis have shown that CVEs are lowered by one-fifth from chlorthalidone when compared to the commonly used thiazide, hydrochlorothiazide. Relative to placebo, chlorthalidone increases life expectancy. In those aged 80 years and older, the diuretic, indapamide, lowers CVEs relative to placebo. The aldosterone antagonist, eplerenone, lowers total mortality in early congestive heart failure. The benefit of eplerenone following acute myocardial infarction (MI) is limited to administration within 3 to 6 days post-MI. Aldosterone antagonists have been shown to lower the incidence of sudden cardiac death and to reduce proteinuria. In the setting of heart failure, long acting loop diuretics azosemide and torasemide are more effective in improving heart failure outcomes than the far more commonly used short acting furosemide. Evening dosing of diuretics appears to lower CVEs relative to morning dosing. In conclusion, diuretics are a diverse class of drugs that remain extremely important in the management of hypertension and hypervolemic states.

Keywords: cardiac pharmacology; cardiovascular disease; cerebrovascular disease; congestive heart failure; diuretics; hypertension.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Antihypertensive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Volume / drug effects
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Diuretics / administration & dosage
  • Diuretics / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Design*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Water-Electrolyte Imbalance / drug therapy


  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Diuretics