Milrinone is a potent positive inotropic and vascular smooth muscle-relaxing agent in vitro, and therefore, it is not known to what extent each of these actions contributes to the drug's hemodynamic effects in patients with heart failure. In 11 patients with New York Heart Association class III or IV congestive heart failure, incremental intravenous doses of milrinone were administered to determine the dose-response relationships for heart rate, systemic vascular resistance, and inotropic state, the latter measured by peak positive left ventricular derivative of pressure with respect to time (dP/dt). To clarify further the role of a positive inotropic action, the relative effects of milrinone and nitroprusside on left ventricular stroke work and dP/dt were compared in each patient at doses matched to cause equivalent reductions in mean arterial pressure or systemic vascular resistance, indices of left ventricular afterload. Milrinone caused heart rate, stroke volume, and dP/dt to increase, and systemic vascular resistance to decrease in a concentration-related manner. At the two lowest milrinone doses resulting in serum concentrations of 63 +/- 4 and 156 +/- 5 ng/ml, respectively, milrinone caused significant increases in stroke volume and dP/dt, but no changes in systemic vascular resistance or heart rate. At the maximum milrinone dose administered (mean serum concentration, 427 +/- 11 ng/ml), heart rate increased from 92 +/- 4 to 99 +/- 4 bpm (P less than 0.01), mean aortic pressure fell from 82 +/- 3 to 71 +/- 3 mmHg (P less than 0.01), right atrial pressure fell from 15 +/- 2 to 7 +/- 1 mmHg (P less than 0.005), left ventricular end-diastolic pressure fell from 26 +/- 3 to 18 +/- 3 (P less than 0.005), stroke volume index increased from 20 +/- 2 to 30 +/- 2 ml/m2 (P less than 0.005), stroke work index increased from 14 +/- 2 to 21 +/- 2 g X m/m2 (P less than 0.01), and dP/dt increased from 858 +/- 54 to 1,130 +/- 108 mmHg/s (P less than 0.005). When compared with nitroprusside for a matched reduction in mean aortic pressure or systemic vascular resistance, milrinone caused a significantly greater increase in stroke work index at the same or lower left ventricular end-diastolic pressure. Milrinone caused a concentration-related increase in dP/dt (32% increase at maximum milrinone dose), whereas nitroprusside had no effect. These data in patients with severe heart failure indicate that in addition to a vasodilating effect, milrinone exerts a concentration-related positive inotropic action that contributes significantly to the drug's overall hemodynamic effects. The positive inotropic action occurs at drug levels that do not exert significant chronotropic or vasodilator effects.
B E Jaski, M A Fifer, R F Wright, E Braunwald, W S Colucci