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Inotropes in cardiac patients: update 2011

Parissis, John Ta; Rafouli-Stergiou, Pinelopia; Stasinos, Vassiliosa; Psarogiannakopoulos, Panagiotisa; Mebazaa, Alexandreb

Current Opinion in Critical Care: October 2010 - Volume 16 - Issue 5 - p 432–441
doi: 10.1097/MCC.0b013e32833e10fb
Cardiovascular system: Edited by Gerasimos Filippatos

Purpose of review ICU patients frequently develop low output syndromes due to cardiac dysfunction, myocardial injury, and inflammatory activation. Conventional inotropic agents seem to be useful in restoring hemodynamic parameters and improving peripheral organ perfusion, but can increase short-term and long-term mortality in these patients. Novel inotropes may be promising in the management of ICU patients, having no serious adverse effects. This review summarizes all the current knowledge about the use of conventional and new inotropic agents in various clinical entities of critically ill patients.

Recent findings In recent European Society of Cardiology guidelines, inotropic agents are administered in patients with low output syndrome due to impaired cardiac contractility, and signs and symptoms of congestion. The most recommended inotropes in this condition are levosimendan and dobutamine (both class of recommendation: IIa, level of evidence: B). Recent data indicate that levosimendan may be useful in postmyocardial infarction cardiac dysfunction and septic shock through increasing coronary flow and attenuating inflammatory activation, respectively. Furthermore, calcium sensitizing by levosimendan can be effectively used for weaning of mechanical ventilation in postcardiac surgery patients and has also cardioprotective effect as expressed by the absence of troponin release in this patient population. Finally, new agents, such as istaroxime and cardiac myosin activators may be safe and improve central hemodynamics in experimental models of heart failure and heart failure patients in phase II clinical trials; however, large-scale randomized clinical trials are required.

Summary In an acute cardiac care setting, short-term use of inotropic agents is crucial for the restoration of arterial blood pressure and peripheral tissue perfusion, as well as weaning of cardiosurgery. New promising agents should be tested in randomized clinical trials.

aHeart Failure Unit, Attikon University Hospital, Athens, Greece

bDepartment of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Hospital Lariboisière, APHP, Université Paris Diderot Paris 7, U942 Inserm, Paris, France

Correspondence to John T. Parissis, MD, Heart Failure Clinic, Attikon University Hospital, University of Athens, Athens, Greece Tel: +30 210 6123720; fax: +30 210 5832195; e-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.