A vascular selective calcium antagonist, felodipine, was evaluated in a randomised, double blind, crossover trial in 18 patients with chronic congestive heart failure of ischaemic cause. Felodipine (10 mg twice daily) or a corresponding placebo was added to conventional treatment. After three weeks haemodynamic function was assessed at rest, during a standard supine leg exercise, and during 45 degrees passive upright tilt. In patients in the supine resting position, felodipine reduced the mean arterial pressure (9%) and systemic vascular resistance (24%) and increased the stroke volume (25%) and cardiac index (23%). The heart rate and right and left ventricular filling pressures were unchanged. During felodipine treatment the standard exercise was accomplished at a similar cardiac index but at a substantially lower heart rate (7%), arterial pressure (10%), systemic vascular resistance (17%), and left ventricular filling pressure (19%), and a higher stroke volume (13%). During both placebo and felodipine administration there were substantial reductions in cardiac filling pressure during upright tilting. Upright tilting during the placebo phase did not increase the heart rate. It also caused a greater fall in systemic vascular resistance while the arterial pulse pressure but not the mean pressure was maintained and the cardiac index and stroke volume increased. The reduced cardiac filling pressures during the felodipine upright tilt were accompanied by reductions in arterial pulse pressure and stroke volume and the patients were able to maintain the mean arterial pressure by an increase in both the heart rate and systemic vascular resistance. Thus three weeks treatment with felodipine improved haemodynamic function at rest and during standard exercise and normalised the baroreflex mediated haemodynamic response in patients with congestive heart failure. The haemodynamic efficacy of the drug in such patients may be associated with a baroreceptor mediated effect as well as direct vasodilatation.
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