The pathogenesis of cardiac failure involves activation of the neurohumoral axis including stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone, and nonosmotic vasopressin systems. While these responses are critical in maintaining arterial pressure, they are associated with renal vasoconstriction, as well as sodium and water retention. In advanced circumstances, renal dysfunction and hyponatremia occur with cardiac failure. Even a modest rise in serum creatinine related to diminished renal function in heart failure patients is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Similarly, increased thirst and the nonosmotic stimulation of vasopressin in advanced cardiac failure leads to hyponatremia, which is also a major risk factor for mortality. Currently, V2 vasopressin receptor antagonists have been shown to correct hyponatremia in cardiac failure. One such agent, conivaptan, also is a V1 receptor antagonist which could theoretically benefit heart failure patients by decreasing cardiac afterload and remodeling. The effect of V2 receptor antagonists to correct hyponatremia in heart failure patients appears to be quite safe. However, to date no effect on mortality has been demonstrated.

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