Acute Unloading Effects of Sildenafil Enhance Right Ventricular–Pulmonary Artery Coupling in Heart Failure

Luca Monzo, Adrian Reichenbach, Hikmet Al-Hiti, Barry A. Borlaug, Tereza Havlenova, Nevenka Solar, Marek Tupy, Jiri Ters, Josef Kautzner, Vojtech Melenovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Phosphodiesterase-5A inhibitors (PDE5i) are sometimes used in patients with advanced heart failure with reduced ejection fraction before heart transplant or left ventricular assist device implantation to decrease right ventricular (RV) afterload and mitigate the risk of right heart failure. Conflicting evidence exists regarding the impact of these drugs on RV contractility. The aim of this study was to explore the acute effects of PDE5i on ventricular–vascular coupling and load-independent RV contractility. Methods: Twenty-two patients underwent right heart catheterization and gated equilibrium blood pool single photon emission computed tomography, before and after 20 mg intravenous sildenafil. Single photon emission computed tomography and right heart catheterization-derived data were used to calculate RV loading and contractility. Results: PDE5i induced a decrease in the right atrial pressure (–43%), pulmonary artery (PA) mean pressure (–26%), and PA wedge pressure (PAWP; –23%), with favorable reductions in pulmonary vascular resistance (–41%) and PA elastance (–40%), and increased cardiac output (+13%) (all P < 0.01). The RV ejection fraction increased with sildenafil (+20%), with no change of RV contractility (P = 0.74), indicating that the improvement in the RV ejection fraction was related to enhanced RV–PA coupling (r = 0.59, P = 0.004) by a decrease in the ventricular load. RV diastolic compliance increased with sildenafil. The decrease in the PAWP correlated with RV end-diastolic volume decrease; no relationship was observed with the change in LV transmural pressure, suggesting decreased pericardial constraint. Conclusions: Acute PDE5i administration has profound RV afterload-reducing effects, improves the RVEF, decreases RV volumes, and decreases the PAWP, predominantly through relief of pericardial constraint, without effects on RV chamber contractility. These findings support further study of PDE5i in protection of RV function in advanced heart failure with reduced ejection fraction who are at risk of RV failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-232
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cardiac Failure
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • PDE5 inhibitors, LVAD
  • Right ventricle
  • heart failure
  • pulmonary hypertension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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