We measured plasma concentrations of adrenomedullin (AM), a novel bioactive peptide with potent vasodilator activity, in 21 patients with chronic congestive heart failure due to various heart diseases and compared them to levels in age- and sex-matched healthy subjects to examine the pathophysiological role of plasma AM in heart failure. In addition, the relationship between plasma AM and other hormones known to control the cardiovascular system was examined in these patients. The plasma AM level in the patients with heart failure was significantly (P < 0.01) higher than that in the control subjects (mean +/- SEM, 2.94 +/- 0.15 fmol/mL; n = 16), with a significantly (P < 0.05) higher concentration in patients in class III or IV (11.82 +/- 1.81 fmol/mL; n = 5) of the New York Heart Association functional classification than in those in class I or II (8.74 +/- 0.44 fmol/mL; n = 16). There were no significant correlations between plasma AM and catecholamine levels, whereas the plasma AM level was significantly correlated with the concentrations of plasma atrial natriuretic peptide (r = 0.58; P < 0.01), brain natriuretic peptide (r = 0.47; P < 0.05), and PRA (r = 0.77; P < 0.01) in the patients. Thus, the plasma AM concentration increased in proportion to the severity of heart failure along with the hormones known to modulate the development of congestive heart failure. The present findings suggest a possible role for AM as a circulating hormone participating in the defense mechanism against further deterioration of congestive heart failure in patients with heart disease.