Drugs for erectile dysfunction may be better than nitroglycerin for protecting the heart from damage before and after a severe MI, according to researchers.


The findings suggest that PDE-5 inhibitors may benefit patients at high risk for acute MIs or may help patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery if given before the procedure.

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An animal study led by Rakesh Kukreja, PhD, professor of medicine, and Eric Lipman, chair of cardiology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, compared the cardioprotective effects of nitroglycerin, sildenafil (Viagra), and vardenafil (Levitra) when the drugs were administered following a severe MI. Sildenafil and vardenafil reduced the damage in the heart muscle, whereas nitroglycerin did not.


“Erectile dysfunction drugs can prevent damage in the heart not only when given before a heart attack, as we discovered previously, but also lessen the injury after the heart attack,” Dr. Kukreja said.


PDE-5 inhibitors may be potentially useful as adjunct therapy in patients undergoing elective procedures, including coronary artery bypass grafting, coronary angioplasty, or heart transplantation. Another potential application may be in the prevention of multiple organ damage that occurs following cardiac arrest, resuscitation, or shock. The findings are published in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology (2007;42:280-282).