It is unknown whether basal release of endothelium-derived nitric oxide in the coronary artery is altered in heart failure in humans. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of inhibition of nitric oxide synthesis on basal tone of the conduit and resistance coronary arteries in awake patients. Coronary blood flow velocity (Doppler guide wire) and coronary arterial diameter (quantitative coronary angiography) were measured in 14 patients with heart failure caused by nonischemic left ventricular dysfunction (7 idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy and 7 valvular insufficiency) and 7 patients with normal ventricular function (controls). Intracoronary N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA), an inhibitor of nitric oxide synthesis, at graded doses decreased coronary blood flow in both groups. However, the magnitude of flow reduction was smaller in patients with heart failure than in control patients (P<.0001). The magnitude of coronary blood flow reduction in response to L-NMMA inversely correlated to indexes of left ventricular contractile function (P< 01) but was not affected by the cause of heart failure. Constriction of the large epicardial coronary artery with L-NMMA also tended to be attenuated in patients with heart failure. In summary, vasoconstricting response to L-NMMA was blunted in the coronary resistance artery in heart failure in vivo. These findings suggest that basal release of nitric oxide in the coronary circulation is decreased in patients with heart failure.
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