Targeting Preload in Heart Failure: Splanchnic Nerve Blockade and Beyond

Circ Heart Fail. 2022 Mar;15(3):e009340. doi: 10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.121.009340. Epub 2022 Mar 15.


Preload augmentation represents a critical mechanism for the cardiovascular system to increase effective circulating blood volume to increase cardiac filling pressures and, subsequently, for the heart to increase cardiac output. The splanchnic vascular compartment is the primary source of vascular capacity and thus the primary target for preload recruitment in humans. Under normal conditions, sympathetic stimulation of these primary venous vessels promotes the shift of blood from the splanchnic to the thoracic compartment and elevates preload and cardiac output. However, in heart failure, since filling pressures may be elevated at rest due to decreased venous capacitance, incremental recruitment of preload to enhance cardiac output may exacerbate congestion and limit exercise capacity. Accordingly, recent attention has focused on therapies designed to regulate splanchnic vascular redistribution to improve cardiac filling pressures and patient-centered outcomes such as quality of life and exercise capacity in patients with heart failure. In this review, we discuss the relevance of splanchnic circulation as a venous reservoir, the contribution of stressed blood volume to heart failure pathogenesis, and the implications for pharmacological therapeutic interventions to prevent heart failure decompensation. Further, we review emerging device-based approaches for cardiac preload reduction such as partial/complete occlusion of the superior vena cava or the inferior vena cava.

Keywords: arteries; cardiac output; heart failure; liver; spleen.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Output / physiology
  • Heart Failure* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Splanchnic Nerves
  • Vena Cava, Superior