Levosimendan Improves Hemodynamics and Exercise Tolerance in PH-HFpEF: Results of the Randomized Placebo-Controlled HELP Trial

JACC Heart Fail. 2021 May;9(5):360-370. doi: 10.1016/j.jchf.2021.01.015. Epub 2021 Apr 7.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of intravenous levosimendan on hemodynamics and 6-min walk distance (6MWD) in patients with pulmonary hypertension and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (PH-HFpEF).

Background: There are no proven effective treatments for patients with PH-HFpEF.

Methods: Patients with mean pulmonary artery pressure (mPAP) ≥35 mm Hg, pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (PCWP) ≥20 mm Hg, and LVEF ≥40% underwent 6MWD and hemodynamic measurements at rest, during passive leg raise, and supine cycle exercise at baseline and after an open-label 24-h levosimendan infusion (0.1 μg/kg/min). Hemodynamic responders (those with ≥4 mm Hg reduction of exercise-PCWP) were randomized (double blind) to weekly levosimendan infusion (0.075 to 0.1 ug/kg/min for 24 h) or placebo for 5 additional weeks. The primary end point was exercise-PCWP, and key secondary end points included 6MWD and PCWP measured across all exercise stages.

Results: Thirty-seven of 44 patients (84%) met responder criteria and were randomized to levosimendan (n = 18) or placebo (n = 19). Participants were 69 ± 9 years of age, 61% female, and with resting mPAP 41.0 ± 9.3 mm Hg and exercise-PCWP 36.8 ± 11.3 mm Hg. Compared with placebo, levosimendan did not significantly reduce the primary end point of exercise-PCWP at 6 weeks (-1.4 mm Hg; 95% confidence interval [CI]: -7.8 to 4.8; p = 0.65). However, levosimendan reduced PCWP measured across all exercise stages (-3.9 ± 2.0 mm Hg; p = 0.047). Levosimendan treatment resulted in a 29.3 m (95% CI: 2.5 to 56.1; p = 0.033) improvement in 6MWD compared with placebo.

Conclusions: Six weeks of once-weekly levosimendan infusion did not affect exercise-PCWP but did reduce PCWP incorporating data from rest and exercise, in tandem with increased 6MWD. Further study of levosimendan is warranted as a therapeutic option for PH-HFpEF. (Hemodynamic Evaluation of Levosimendan in Patients With PH-HFpEF [HELP]; NCT03541603).

Keywords: exercise; heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF); hemodynamics; levosimendan; pulmonary hypertension.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Tolerance*
  • Female
  • Heart Failure* / drug therapy
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Simendan
  • Stroke Volume


  • Simendan

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03541603