OBJECTIVES: We sought to compare the protective efficacy of enalapril and losartan on lung diffusion in chronic heart failure (CHF). BACKGROUND: In CHF, hydrostatic overload causes disruption of the alveolar-capillary membrane and depression of carbon monoxide diffusion (Dco); enalapril improves Dco through mechanisms still undefined; and saline infusion in the pulmonary circulation worsens Dco, putatively because of an upregulated sodium transport to the alveolar interstitium. We investigated whether enalapril modulates sodium handling and whether losartan shares the same properties. METHODS: In 29 patients with CHF, Dco, its membrane diffusion subcomponent (Dm) and right atrial and pulmonary wedge pressures were monitored during saline infusion, in the control condition, during enalapril therapy (20 mg/day) for two weeks and after crossover to losartan (50 mg/day) for two weeks (first 20 patients), or after the combination of enalapril with aspirin (325 mg/day) for one week (last 9 patients). RESULTS: Saline, 150 ml, lowered Dco (-7.9%; p <0.01) and Dm (-9.9%; p <0.01) without hydrostatic variations. Responses to 750 ml of saline were qualitatively similar. After treatment with enalapril, baseline Dco (p <0.01) and Dm (p <0.01) were augmented; after sodium loading, the percent reductions of Dco (p <0.01) and Dm (p <0.01) were comparable to those before it, resulting in higher absolute values. This suggests that the greater the gas conductance improvement with enalapril, the lower the impedance with saline. Losartan was ineffective on gas transfer at rest and under salt challenge. Aspirin counteracted the benefits of enalapril. CONCLUSIONS: In CHF, enalapril protects lung diffusion, possibly through a prostaglandin-mediated modulation of sodium overfiltration to the alveolar interstitium; losartan does not share this ability.
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