Differential effects of theophylline on sympathetic excitation, hemodynamics, and breathing in congestive heart failure

Stefan Andreas, Hartwig Reiter, Lars Lüthje, André Delekat, Rolf W. Grunewald, Gerd Hasenfuss, Virend K. Somers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Background - Patients with heart failure have high levels of central sympathetic outflow and also have a high prevalence of sleep-related breathing disorders, predominantly central sleep apnea. The options for treating central sleep apnea in heart failure are limited and include theophylline. Whether theophylline alters sympathetic activity in heart failure patients is not known. Methods and Results - Using a single-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled study design, we investigated the sympathetic, hemodynamic, neurohumoral, and ventilatory effects of theophylline in patients with congestive heart failure compared with healthy control subjects closely matched for age, sex, and body mass index. Theophylline increased muscle sympathetic nerve activity and lowered transcutaneous CO2 in the control subjects but only lowered transcutaneous CO2 in the heart failure patients. Theophylline nearly doubled plasma renin concentration in both the healthy subjects (P<0.01) and the heart failure patients (P<0.02). Conclusions - Our study shows that in heart failure patients, there are differential effects of theophylline: in contrast to healthy subjects, theophylline does not increase sympathetic activity in heart failure, whereas increases in plasma renin and ventilation are still evident. These novel findings may have important implications for understanding the potential harmful and beneficial effects of theophylline and related substances in heart failure patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2157-2162
Number of pages6
Issue number15
StatePublished - Oct 12 2004


  • Heart failure
  • Nervous system, sympathetic
  • Sleep apnea
  • Theophylline
  • Ventilation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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