Background: Cardiac hypertrophy is a physiologic response that allows the heart to adapt to an excess hemodynamic load. We hypothesized that inducing cardiac hypertrophy with recombinant human growth hormone might be an effective approach to the treatment of idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which compensatory cardiac hypertrophy is believed to be deficient.
Methods: Seven patients with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy and moderate-to-severe heart failure were studied at base line, after three months of therapy with human growth hormone, and three months after the discontinuation of growth hormone. Standard therapy for heart failure was continued throughout the study. Cardiac function was evaluated with Doppler echocardiography, right-heart catheterization, and exercise testing.
Results: When administered at a dose of 14 IU per week, growth hormone doubled the serum concentrations of insulin-like growth factor I. Growth hormone increased left-ventricular-wall thickness and reduced chamber size significantly. Consequently, end-systolic wall stress (a function of both wall thickness and chamber size) fell markedly (from a mean [+/-SE] of 144+/-11 to 85+/-8 dyn per square centimeter, P<0.001). Growth hormone improved cardiac output, particularly during exercise (from 7.4+/-0.7 to 9.7+/-0.9 liters per minute, P=0.003), and enhanced ventricular work, despite reductions in myocardial oxygen consumption (from 56+/-6 to 39+/-5 ml per minute, P=0.005) and energy production (from 1014+/-100 to 701+/-80 J per minute, P=0.002). Thus, ventricular mechanical efficiency rose from 9+/-2 to 21+/-5 percent (P=0.006). Growth hormone also improved clinical symptoms, exercise capacity, and the patients' quality of life. The changes in cardiac size and shape, systolic function, and exercise tolerance were partially reversed three months after growth hormone was discontinued.
Conclusions: Recombinant human growth hormone administered for three months to patients with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy increased myocardial mass and reduced the size of the left ventricular chamber, resulting in improvement in hemodynamics, myocardial energy metabolism, and clinical status.