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A review of the contemporary use of inotropes in patients with heart failure.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The role of inotropes has evolved with its use now expanding over multiple indications including cardiogenic shock, low cardiac output states, bridging therapy to transplant or mechanical support, and palliative care. There remains no consensus as to the recommended inotrope for the failing heart. We aim to provide an overview of the recent literature related to inotrope therapy and its application in patients with advanced heart failure and hemodynamic compromise.

RECENT FINDINGS: In this review, we outline various clinical scenarios that warrant the use of inotrope therapy and the associated recommendations. There remains no mortality benefit with inotrope use. Per American Heart Association recommendations, the choice of the inotropic agent should be guided by parameters such as blood pressure, concurrent arrhythmias, and availability of the medication. Outcome variability remains a heightened concern with inpatient inotropic use in both hemodynamically stable and unstable patients. Finally, inotropic use in palliative care continues to be a recommendation for symptom control and improvement in functional status when the appropriate social support is present for the patient.

SUMMARY: In summary, the ideal inotropic agent remains at the discretion of the clinical provider. Different clinical scenarios may favor one agent over another based on the type of cardiogenic shock and mechanism of action of the inotrope. A future shift towards characterizing inotrope use based on subgroup cardiogenic shock profiles may be seen, however further studies are needed to better understand these phenotypes. Inotrope therapy remains a keystone to bridging to advanced therapies and palliative care.

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