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    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.

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    Understanding Heart Failure -- Prevention

    Drug therapy to lower blood pressure has been shown to reduce heart failure rates by 40%-60%. Reducing blockages in the coronary arteries with anti-cholesterol drugs has been shown to reduce heart failure rates by 30%. Early diagnosis and treatment of heart-valve abnormalities can prevent heart failure caused by chronic volume overload of the heart's left chamber.

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    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:

    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.

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