[Skip to Content]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
[Skip to Content Landing]
November 2, 1994

Management of Heart FailureI. Pharmacologic Treatment

Author Affiliations

From the Health Sciences Program, RAND, Santa Monica, Calif (Dr Baker); the Division of General Internal Medicine, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, Calif (Dr Baker); the Departments of Medicine and Radiology, Tufts University, Boston, Mass (Dr Konstam); New England Medical Center, Boston, Mass (Dr Konstam); College of Pharmacy, University of Cincinnati (Ohio) (Dr Bottorff); and the University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor (Dr Pitt). Dr Baker is now with the Division of General Medicine, Grady Memorial Hospital, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga.

JAMA. 1994;272(17):1361-1366. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520170071039

Objective.  —This review of the pharmacologic treatment of heart failure due to left ventricular systolic dysfunction summarizes the recommendations of the expert panel for the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research Heart Failure Guideline. It provides specific advice to help guide practitioners through clinical decision making.

Data Sources.  —Data were obtained from English-language studies and referenced in MEDLINE or EMBASE between 1966 and 1993. We used the search terms heart failure, congestive; congestive heart failure; heart failure; cardiac failure; and dilated cardiomyopathy in conjunction with terms for the specific treatments. Where data were lacking, we relied on opinions of panel members and peer reviewers.

Study Selection.  —Only large prospective trials were used to estimate treatment efficacy. Smaller trials, case series, and case reports were reviewed for the incidence of adverse effects.

Data Extraction and Synthesis.  —Randomized clinical trials were reviewed for inclusion and exclusion criteria, patient outcomes, adverse effects, and eight categories of study quality using a defined list of study flaws.

Conclusion.  —Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors should be given to all patients unless specific contraindications exist. Diuretics should be used judiciously early in treatment to prevent excessive diuresis that could prevent titration of ACE inhibitors to target doses. Digoxin has not been shown to affect the natural history of heart failure and should be reserved for patients who remain symptomatic after treatment with ACE inhibitors and diuretics. Isosorbide dinitrate and hydralazine hydrochloride should be tried in patients who cannot tolerate ACE inhibitors or who have refractory symptoms.(JAMA. 1994;272:1361-1366)