Background: Diastolic ventricular interaction describes a situation in which the volume of one ventricle is directly influenced by the volume of the other ventricle. Such interaction is normally negligible, but it is accentuated in circumstances associated with pulmonary hypertension and volume overload. When this interaction occurs, acute volume unloading results in a reduction in right ventricular end-diastolic volume, as expected, but left ventricular end-diastolic volume paradoxically increases. Since chronic heart failure is a volume-overloaded state associated with pulmonary hypertension, we hypothesised that this interaction may be clinically important in patients with heart failure.
Methods: A radionuclide technique incorporating cardiac scintigraphy was used to measure the effect of acute volume unloading, achieved by 30 mm Hg lower-body suction, on right and left ventricular end-diastolic volumes in 21 patients with chronic heart failure and 12 healthy individuals (controls).
Findings: In nine heart-failure patients, there was a paradoxical increase in left ventricular end-diastolic volume in association with an expected decrease in right ventricular end-diastolic volume during lower-body suction. This response was not seen in the control group. The mean change in left ventricular end-diastolic volume differed significantly between the heart-failure patients and controls (6 [SD 19] vs -19  mL, p = 0.0003). However, the change in right ventricular end-diastolic volume was similar in the two groups (-18  vs -20 %. p = 0.70). Patients who increased left ventricular end-diastolic volume during lower-body suction had higher resting pulmonary arterial and pulmonary capillary wedge pressures than the remaining heart-failure patients.
Interpretation: The response of nine patients in our study suggests diastolic ventricular interaction, which we believe could be common in patients with chronic heart failure. This finding is relevant to their management, since it emphasises the importance of venodilator therapy. The relation between stroke volume and left ventricular end-diastolic volume, by the Frank-Starting law of the heart, may explain why some patients with chronic heart failure paradoxically increase stroke volume when pulmonary capillary wedge pressure is lowered with vasodilators.