Role of growth hormone in chronic heart failure: Therapeutic implications

M. Volterrani, A. Giustina, F. Manelli, M. A. Cicoira, R. Lorusso, A. Giordano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chronic heart failure is a multi-etiological cardiovascular disorder with high prevalence and poor prognosis. Medical treatment of dilated cardiomyopathy is aimed at alleviating heart failure symptoms. Diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and very recently, beta-blockers have been shown to have favorable effects on symptoms, exercise capacity and mortality. Growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 are involved in several physiological processes such as the control of muscle mass and function, body composition and regulation of nutrient metabolism. The role of GH and IGF-1 as modulators of myocardial structure and function is well established. Receptors for both GH and IGF-1 are expressed by cardiac myocytes; therefore, GH may act directly on the heart or via the induction of local or systemic IGF-1, while IGF-1 may act by endocrine, paracrine or autocrine mechanisms. Patients with acromegaly have an increased propensity to develop ventricular hypertrophy and cardiovascular diseases; impaired cardiac efficiency can also be observed in patients with GH deficiency. Animal models of pressure and volume overload have demonstrated up-regulation of cardiac IGF-1 production and expression of GH and IGF-1 receptors, implying that the local regulation of these factors is influenced by hemodynamic changes. Moreover, experimental studies suggest that GH and IGF-1 have stimulatory effects on myocardial contractility, possibly mediated by changes in intracellular calcium handling. Heart failure is due to ventricular dilation with inadequate wall thickening that leads to impaired cardiac performance; therefore, based on previous evidence we would expect beneficial effects from the use of GH in these patients. Several papers have highlighted the positive influence of GH in the regulation of heart development and performance. In patients with GH deficiency, GH administration dramatically improves cardiac function. In small open studies, acute and chronic GH treatment has demonstrated beneficial effects in patients with heart failure due to ischemic or idiopathic cardiomyopathy. Recently, two randomized, placebo-controlled studies did not show any significant GH-mediated improvement in cardiac performance in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy, despite significant increases in IGF-1. Acquired GH resistance might be an important feature of severe heart failure and explain the diverse responses to GH therapy observed in different patients. Whether GH treatment will finally find a place in the treatment of heart failure, and with which modalities, remains to be established.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)732-738
Number of pages7
JournalItalian Heart Journal
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Chronic heart failure
  • Growth hormone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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