Drugs & Aging

, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 452–458 | Cite as

The Role of Nitric Oxide in Heart Failure

Potential for Pharmacological Intervention
  • Peter Macdonald
  • Christopher Schyvens
  • David Winlaw
Review Article Clinical Pharmacology


There is now considerable evidence that nitric oxide (NO) production and action are abnormal in patients with heart failure. Spontaneous NO release from the vascular endothelium is preserved or enhanced in patients with heart failure and this may help to maintain tissue perfusion by blunting the vasoconstriction induced by various neurohumoral factors. On the other hand, endothelial NO release in response to various stimuli including exercise appears to be diminished and this may contribute to the impaired exercise capacity of patients with heart failure.

It is now apparent that NO produced within the heart plays an important role in the modulation of cardiac contractility under physiological conditions. In patients with heart failure, however, increased myocardial NO production in response to cytokines such as tumour necrosis factor-α may contribute to reduced contractility and myocyte injury.

Our understanding of the role of NO in the control of vascular tone has provided an explanation for the efficacy of nitrovasodilators in heart failure and has stimulated novel approaches to augmenting endogenous vascular NO production. There is also evidence that ACE inhibitors act to restore normal endothelial function in patients with heart failure.

Increased NO production within the heart, particularly that produced via the pro-inflammatory inducible NO synthase, may be detrimental. It remains to be determined whether selective inhibition of inducible NO synthase can favourably modify the course of this lethal condition.


Heart Failure Nitric Oxide Adis International Limited Isosorbide Dinitrate Chronic Congestive Heart Failure 
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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Macdonald
    • 1
  • Christopher Schyvens
    • 1
  • David Winlaw
    • 1
  1. 1.Cardiopulmonary Transplant UnitSt Vincent’s HospitalDarlinghurstAustralia

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