Nitrate therapy is an alternative to furosemide/morphine therapy in the management of acute cardiogenic pulmonary edema

J F Beltrame, C J Zeitz, S A Unger, R J Brennan, A Hunt, J L Moran, J D Horowitz
Journal of Cardiac Failure 1998, 4 (4): 271-9

BACKGROUND: Nitrates are superior to furosemide in the management of acute pulmonary edema associated with myocardial infarction; however, their role in the absence of infarction is unclear.

METHODS AND RESULTS: A randomized comparison was undertaken of the relative effectiveness of primary therapy with either intravenous morphine/furosemide (men/women; n = 32) or nitroglycerin/N-acetylcysteine (NTG/NAC; n = 37) in consecutive patients with acute pulmonary edema. The primary end point was change in PaO2/FIO2 over the first 60 minutes of therapy. Secondary end points were needed for mechanical respiratory assistance (ie, continuous positive airway pressure via mask or intubation and ventilation) and changes in other gas exchange parameters. Both treatment groups showed improvement in oxygenation after 60 minutes of therapy; however, this reached statistical significance only with NTG/NAC therapy. There was no significant difference between groups in the assessed parameters (95% CI for differences in Pao2/FIO2: furosemide/morphine -12 to 23 and NTG/NAC 4 to 44), a finding also confirmed in 32 patients presenting with respiratory failure. Only 11% of the study group required mechanical ventilatory assistance (continuous positive airway pressure in 4 patients and intubation and ventilation in 3 patients).

CONCLUSIONS: NTG/NAC therapy is as effective as furosemide/morphine in the initial management of acute pulmonary edema, regardless of the presence or absence of respiratory failure. The necessity for mechanical ventilatory assistance is infrequent in these patients, regardless of the initial medical treatment regimen.

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