Hyponatremia is an electrolyte disorder frequently observed in several clinical settings and common in hospitalized patients with decompensated heart failure (HF). It is caused by deregulation of arginine vasopressin (AVP) homeostasis associated with water retention in hypervolemic or in euvolemic states. While hypervolemic hypotonic hyponatremia is also seen in advanced liver cirrhosis, renal failure, and nephrotic syndrome, the bulk of evidence associating this electrolyte disorder to increasing morbidity and mortality can be found in the HF literature. Hospitalized HF patients with low serum sodium concentration have lower short-term and long-term survival, longer hospital stay and increased readmission rates. Conventional therapeutic approaches, ie, restriction of fluid intake, saline and diuretics, can be effective, but often the results are unpredictable. Recent clinical trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of nonpeptide AVP receptor antagonists (vaptans) in the treatment of hyponatremia. The vaptans induce aquaresis, an electrolyte-sparing excretion of free water resulting in the correction of serum sodium concentrations and plasma osmolality, without activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) or changes in renal function and blood pressure. Further prospective studies in a selected congestive HF population with hyponatremia, using clinical-status titrated dose of tolvaptan, are needed to determine whether serum sodium normalization will be translated into a better long-term prognosis. This review will focus on recent clinical trials with tolvaptan, an oral V2 receptor antagonist, in HF patients. The ability of tolvaptan to safely increase serum sodium concentration without activating the RAAS or compromising renal function and electrolyte balance makes it an attractive agent for treating hyponatremic HF patients
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