Inotropic state (myocardial contractility)
Factors that influence the inotropic state affect ventricular performance at a given ventricular end-diastolic volume. These factors change the concentration of Ca2+ at the myofilaments and include in part:
Adrenergic nerve activity: The amount of norepinephrine released by cardiac adrenergic nerve terminals is the most important acute factor in changing the position of the force-velocity in ventricular function curves.
Circulating catecholames: Catecholamines released from adrenal medulla and other non-cardiac sympathetic ganglia stimulate cardiac adrenoceptors, thus increasing rate and force of contraction.
Exogenously administered agents:
Drugs that improve ventricular performance:
Dopamine (Intropin)/dobutamine (Dobutrex)
Drugs that decrease ventricular performance:
Procainamide (Procan SR, Pronestyl-SR)
Certain calcium channel blockers
Local and general anesthetics
Physiological Depressants: Depression of the myocardial force-velocity curves with decreased left ventricular function can occur with:
Loss of ventricular muscle mass:
When significant portions of the ventricle are hypokinetic or necrotic either due to ischemia or following myocardiac infarction, total ventricular performance may be significantly depressed.
Afterload is the stress developed in the wall of the ventricle during ejection and depends on aortic pressure and ventricular dimensions.
Myocardial fiber tension is determined by the product of the intracavity ventricular pressure and radius divided by wall thickness (Laplace's law).
Therefore, for the same level of aortic pressure, afterload increases with ventricular dilation.
Left ventricular stroke volume is inversely proportional to afterload.
In the failing heart with limited or no preload reserve (increasing preload in a normal heart increase contractility), afterload determines ventricular performance.
When afterload increases (increase in vasoconstriction) in the failing heart, cardiac output may be reduced further even while oxygen demand increases.
Vasodilators may improve myocardial performance by reducing ventricular afterload.
With exercise, venous return is significantly increased and results in enhanced ventricular filling and preload.
Increases in cardiac adrenergic activity and increases in circulating levels of catecholamines increase heart rate and enhance the myocardial contractility.
These factors result in significantly augmented cardiac output.
Arterial pressure does not increase substantially since vasodilatation in exercising muscles offset the increase in cardiac output.
Adaptive mechanism to assist the failure heart
Frank-Starling relationship: Increasing preload leads to increased cardiac output.
Myocardial hypertrophy which tends to reduce ventricular wall tension towards normal.
Redistribution of cardiac output from skin, kidneys, and skeletal muscle to the brain and heart.
Neurohumoral adjustments which maintain arterial pressure
Renin-Angiotensin System (RAS): Activation of the RAS occurs with declining cardiac output.
Increasing concentrations of circulating angiotensin II and aldosterone results in excess vasoconstriction and salt and water retention respectively.
The clinical condition of patients with chronic heart failure may be improved by administration of aldosterone antagonists and ACE inhibitors.
Adrenergic System: Patients with heart failure often have significantly elevated circulating norepinephrine levels.
These levels provide critical inotropic support for the failing myocardium.
Administration of beta-adrenoceptor antagonists to patients with severe failure may worsen their congestive heart failure.
Administration of beta-adrenoceptor antagonists to patients with mild to moderate failure may be helpful in management of their congestive heart failure
Arrhythmias: In patients with heart disease and with a history of congestive failure, an acute arrhythmia is a common precipitating cause of CHF.
Myocardial Infarction: A myocardial infarction, reducing left ventricular function, may precipitate CHF in a previously hemodynamically compensated patient.
Pulmonary Embolism: Physically inactive patients with low cardiac output may develop deep venous thrombi which may produce pulmonary emboli and elevation of pulmonary arterial pressure. Increased pulmonary artery pressure may worsen or cause left ventricular failure.
Systemic Hypertension: Rapid increases in arterial blood pressure with associated increases in peripheral resistance can increase afterload to an extent sufficient to produce heart failure.
*Specific CHF Causes
Rheumatic and other forms of Myocarditis
Physical, dietary, fluid, environmental and emotional excesses
*Isselbacher et al. (eds): "Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine"New York, McGraw-Hill Inc, 1994, p. 999.
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