Hemodynamic and clinical limitations of long-term inotropic therapy with amrinone in patients with severe chronic heart failure

M. Packer, N. Medina, M. Yushak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations


To determine the hemodynamic and clinical effects of long-term positive inotropic stimulation on the myocardium, we treated 31 patients with severe chronic heart failure with oral amrinone (600 mg daily) and performed invasive hemodynamic studies during short- and long-term treatment with the drug. Stroke volume and stroke work indexes increased markedly during the first 48 hr of therapy (p < .01) but returned to pretreatment values after 2 to 10 weeks; upon drug withdrawal, both variables deteriorated rapidly to values significantly lower than those observed before treatment with amrinone (p < .01), despite similar values for left ventricular filling pressure, mean arterial pressure, and systemic vascular resistance. This pattern of response indicated that progression of the underlying heart disease had occurred during treatment with amrinone and contributed importantly to its failure to produce long-term benefits. Progression of left ventricular dysfunction was associated with a progressive increase in heart rate and plasma renin activity and a decline in serum sodium concentration. Clinically, amrinone therapy was complicated by sustained symptomatic ventricular tachycardia in four patients, worsening myocardial ischemia in four patients, and worsening congestive heart failure in eight patients, all of whom had been stable before entry into the study; only three of the 31 patients improved clinically. Ten patients died during the first 2 weeks of treatment, and 16 (52%) were dead within 3 months, a mortality rate twice as great as that seen during comparable trials with vasodilating drugs. Although noncardiac adverse effects were frequent, they were not the primary reason for drug failure. In conclusion, long-term therapy with amrinone may accelerate progression of left ventricular dysfunction, exacerbate myocardial ischemia, and provoke life-threatening ventricular tachyarrhythmias, thereby shortening survival in patients with severe chronic heart failure. Prolonged administration of inotropic drugs may achieve short-term gains at the expense of long-term detrimental effects on the myocardium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1038-1047
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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