Most patients with advanced congestive heart failure have altered thyroid hormone metabolism. A low triiodothyronine level is associated with impaired hemodynamics and is an independent predictor of poor survival. This study sought to evaluate safety and hemodynamic effects of short-term intravenous administration of triiodothyronine in patients with advanced heart failure. An intravenous bolus dose of triiodothyronine, with or without a 6- to 12-hour infusion (cumulative dose 0. 1 5 to 2.7 microg/kg), was administered to 23 patients with advanced heart failure (mean left ventricular ejection fraction 0.22 +/- 0.01). Cardiac rhythm and hemodynamic status were monitored for 12 hours, and basal metabolic rate by indirect calorimetry, echocardiographic parameters of systolic function and valvular regurgitation, thyroid hormone, and catecholamine levels were measured at baseline and at 4 to 6 hours. Triiodothyronine was well tolerated without episodes of ischemia or clinical arrhythmia. There was no significant change in heart rate or metabolic rate and there was minimal increase in core temperature. Cardiac output increased with a reduction in systemic vascular resistance in patients receiving the largest dose, consistent with a peripheral vasodilatory effect. Acute intravenous administration of triiodothyronine is well tolerated in patients with advanced heart failure, establishing the basis for further investigation into the safety and potential hemodynamic benefits of longer infusions, combined infusion with inotropic agents, oral triiodothyronine replacement therapy, and new triiodothyronine analogs.