, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 403-409
Date: 09 Sep 2009

Pharmaceutical management of decompensated heart failure syndrome in children: Current state of the art and a new approach

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Opinion statement

Prompt initiation of appropriate and intensive treatment in children with decompensated heart failure is crucial to avoid irreversible end-organ dysfunction. Initial management of these children includes transfer to the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit, basic hemodynamic monitoring, and establishment of intravenous access. Inotropic support should be instituted peripherally before obtaining central venous and arterial access. The team should be prepared for emergent intubation and initiation of mechanical circulatory support. Two experienced physicians should work together to obtain vascular access and manage sedation, airway control, and cardiovascular support. Acute heart failure syndrome in children may be related to cardiomyopathy, myocarditis, congenital heart disease, and acute rejection post heart transplantation. Each of these causes requires a different approach. Fulminant myocarditis may lead to severe morbidity and requires intensive support, although its outcome is considered to be good. Acute heart failure related to newly diagnosed dilated cardiomyopathy may represent end-stage heart failure; therefore, long-term mechanical circulatory support and heart transplantation may be considered to avoid other end-organ dysfunction. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may lead to acute decompensation due to 1) left ventricular outflow obstruction, 2) restrictive physiology leading to pulmonary hypertension, or 3) myocardial is chemia associated with coronary artery bridging. Decompensated heart failure associated with congenital heart disease usually represents end-stage heart failure and requires thorough evaluation for heart transplantation. Children with single-ventricle physiology who develop decompensated heart failure after a Fontan procedure are not candidates for mechanical circulatory support and therefore may not survive to heart transplantation. Acute heart failure due to posttransplantation acute rejection requires aggressive antirejection treatment, which places these patients at significant risk for overwhelming opportunistic infections. In our opinion, mechanical circulatory support should be initiated early in children who present with end-stage heart failure associated with hemodynamic instability to avoid end-organ damage.