Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Heart Failure Health Center

Font Size

Heart Failure and Heart Pump Medication

Heart pump medication, also called inotropic therapy, stimulates an injured or weakened heart to pump harder. The primary purpose of this drug is to increase the force of the heart muscle's contractions. It may also speed up the heart's rhythm.

Inotropic therapy is used in end-stage heart failure to help relieve and control heart failure symptoms so that you are better able to perform your daily activities. These medications are only used when other drugs no longer control heart failure symptoms.

Recommended Related to Heart Failure

Understanding Heart Failure -- Symptoms

The symptoms of heart failure can be related to the pooling of fluid in the body or can be secondary to decreased blood flow to the body. Some people with heart failure don't experience symptoms, but here are some of the more common signs: Shortness of breath with exercise or difficulty breathing at rest or when lying down Swollen legs, ankles, or abdomen Dry, hacking cough, or wheezing Other symptoms may include: Fatigue, palpitations, or pain during normal activities Weig...

Read the Understanding Heart Failure -- Symptoms article > >

Heart pump drugs are sometimes given short term to patients awaiting a heart transplant. The risk of death rises if they are taken long term.

Heart pump medications include:

  • Dobutrex (dobutamine)
  • Primacor (milrinone)

 

 

 

How Should I Take This Heart Pump Drugs?

Inotropic therapy is first administered in the hospital where you can be closely monitored.

Dobutamine and milrinone are IV medications administered by an infusion pump into your vein to help ensure the dose is accurate. These drugs may be ordered by your doctor to be given continuously or periodically over six to 72 hours, one or more times per week.

Even if you feel well, do not discontinue your inotropic therapy medication from your intravenous catheter line or from your infusion pump without consulting your doctor. If you are discharged from the hospital with an inotropic medication, a home health nurse will provide specific directions on how to care for your intravenous site, catheter and infusion pump.

 

 

 

What Are the Side Effects of Inotropic Therapy?

Notify your doctor or nurse right away the first time any of these side effects occur:

  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Faintness, dizziness, or lightheadedness
  • Mild leg cramps or tingling sensation

If any of the following side effects occur, STOP THE INFUSION and contact your doctor right away:

  • Irregular, fast heartbeat (more than 120 beats per minute)
  • Pain or swelling at infusion site
  • Fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher
  • Pump malfunction (then call the pharmacy immediately for a replacement)

 

Should I Avoid Certain Food or Medicine During Inotropic Therapy?

Yes, while taking heart pump medication, make sure you:

  • Carefully follow the low-sodium (low-salt) diet and daily exercise program advised by your doctor.
  • Avoid alcohol, which increases the side effects of this drug.

Other Guidelines for Inotropic Therapy

  • Keep all appointments with your doctor and the lab so your response to this drug can be monitored.
  • Be sure that you always have enough infusion bags of your medication. Check your supply before vacations, holidays, or other occasions when you may be unable to obtain it.
  • Never administer other intravenous medications through the same intravenous line.
  • Take precautions to prevent infection while you are taking this drug. Your doctor will give you information on how to prevent infection.

 

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on May 26, 2014

Today on WebMD

Compressed heart
Article
Salt Shockers
Slideshow
 
Inside A Heart Attack
Slideshow
lowering blood pressure
SLIDESHOW
 

Mechanical Heart
Article
Omega 3 Overview Slideshow
Slideshow
 
Atrial Fibrillation Guide
Slideshow
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Slideshow
 

Compressed heart
Article
FAQ Heart Failure
Article
 
Cholesterol Confusion
Health Check
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Slideshow
 

WebMD Special Sections