Current Heart Failure Reports

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 367–378 | Cite as

Current Approach to Decongestive Therapy in Acute Heart Failure

  • Pieter Martens
  • Petra Nijst
  • Wilfried Mullens
Decompensated Heart Failure (D Aronso, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Decompensated Heart Failure


Congestion, defined by elevated cardiac filling pressures, is the major driver of hospitalization in acute decompensated heart failure. Careful clinical assessment should allow to determine whether volume overload or volume misdistribution is the predominating mechanism of congestion. Differentiation is imperative because therapy differs. If volume overloads prevails, loop diuretics are considered the mainstay therapy. However, early use of combinational therapy with diuretics acting more proximal or distal in the nephron could allow for a more profound natriuresis and diuresis. A stepped guided pharmacological treatment should focus on achieving complete decongestion, because persistent congestion is a major driver of readmission. If diuretic strategies remain unsuccessful, ultrafiltration should be considered. Ultrafiltration should be used with caution in the setting of worsening of renal function. When volume misdistribution and impaired venous capacitance predominate the picture of congestion, unloading—more than diuretics—with arteriolar and venous vasodilators might mitigate the clinical picture of congestion. This review offers a thorough overview and practical insight in the use of current and potential decongestive therapies.


Decongestive therapy Cardiac filling Heart failure Combinational therapy Ultrafiltration Congestion 



Acute decompensated heart failure


Worsening of renal function


Pulmonary capillary wedge pressure


Cardiac resynchronization therapy


Bis in Die


N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide


Mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist


Sodium-glucose linked transporter 2


Isosorbide dinitrate




Arginine vasopressin



Pieter Martens, Petra Nijst and Wilfried Mullens are researchers for the Limburg Clinical Research Program (LCRP) UHasselt-ZOL-Jessa, supported by the foundation Limburg Sterk Merk (LSM), Hasselt University, Ziekenhuis Oost-Limburg, and Jessa Hospital.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Pieter Martens, Petra Nijst, and Wilfried Mullens declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pieter Martens
    • 1
    • 2
  • Petra Nijst
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wilfried Mullens
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of CardiologyZiekenhuis Oost-LimburgGenkBelgium
  2. 2.Doctoral School for Medicine and Life SciencesHasselt UniversityDiepenbeekBelgium
  3. 3.Biomedical Research Institute, Faculty of Medicine and Life SciencesHasselt UniversityDiepenbeekBelgium

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