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Vasopressin and vasopressin antagonists in heart failure and hyponatremia.

Increased synthesis of arginine vasopressin (AVP) plays a critical role in fluid retention and hyponatremia in patients with heart failure. The AVP receptor antagonists constitute a new class of agents that are promising in the management of hyponatremia and congestion. Three of these agents--conivaptan, tolvaptan, and lixivaptan--have been studied in clinical settings. All are effective in inducing aquaresis (ie, electrolyte-free water excretion) and normalizing serum sodium concentration. They are well tolerated without causing electrolyte disorders, hypotension, or renal impairment. Conivaptan has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for short-term intravenous treatment of euvolemic hyponatremia of variable etiology but has not been adequately studied in heart failure. The addition of tolvaptan to standard therapy in hospitalized patients with heart failure has led to symptomatic improvement and decreased body weight, but there is no long-term clinical benefit. Early data on lixivaptan in heart failure suggest a dose-dependent aquaresis effect, and larger studies are under way.

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