Erectile dysfunction drug improves exercise tolerance in young people with congenital heart disease

Mar 10, 2011

Sildenafil, a drug used to treat erectile dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension, has another possible use -- helping children and young adults with congenital heart disease to better tolerate exercise. Sildenafil significantly improved measures of exercise performance during stress testing in patients with single-ventricle heart disease, according to researchers from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

This study was published online on March 7 in the journal Circulation. It is the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial to evaluate the impact of sildenafil on measures of exercise performance in children and young adults with single-ventricle .

All patients involved in the study had earlier undergone the Fontan operation, a procedure that redirects systemic venous blood directly to the , bypassing the heart. It is the third operation in a staged series of surgeries for single-ventricle , life-threatening conditions in which a child is born with severe underdevelopment of one of the pumping chambers of the heart.

"Despite dramatically improved early operative success achieved over the past 20 years, morbidity and mortality are still a challenge for children who have undergone a Fontan operation," said David J. Goldberg, M.D., pediatric cardiologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and primary investigator of this study. "The staged palliation does not recreate a normal two-ventricle circulation; instead the series of surgeries creates a unique physiology in which is dramatically diminished."

In this study, researchers randomized 28 children and young adults who had undergone the Fontan operation an average of 11 years earlier to receive either placebo or sildenafil three times a day for 6 weeks. After a 6 week break from treatment, subjects were switched to the opposite treatment course. As a "proof-of-concept" study, the researchers selected a relatively healthy cohort of subjects without significant complications that they felt would have sufficient exercise capacity to complete the study.

The researchers found significant improvements in exercise performance during treatment with sildenafil compared to placebo. The findings included improved ventilatory efficiency and, in two subgroups of patients, an improved ability to perform moderate levels of exercise. These changes suggest an overall improvement in the physiology associated with this unique circulation.

"The enhanced exercise performance that we found in the study is exciting and may lead to an improvement in day-to-day activities for these children and young adults," Dr. Goldberg said. "However, it is important to note that while the results of this study are encouraging, more work is needed to determine whether the short-term benefit found in this study holds up over a longer period of time and whether there are any long-term side effects," he added.

"If the results from this preliminary study are validated in a larger sample over a longer period of time, it may be that this medication has the potential to improve quality of life for patients born with only one ventricle," Dr. Goldberg concluded.

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.