Use of levosimendan in cardiac surgery: An update after the LEVO-CTS, CHEETAH, and LICORN trials in the light of clinical practice.
Levosimendan is a calcium sensitizer and adenosine triphosphate-dependent potassium channel opener, which exerts sustained hemodynamic, symptomatic, and organ-protective effects. It is registered for the treatment of acute heart failure, and when inotropic support is considered appropriate. In the past 15 years, levosimendan has been widely used in clinical practice and has also been tested in clinical trials to stabilize at-risk patients undergoing cardiac surgery. Recently, 3 randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter studies (LICORN, CHEETAH, and LEVO-CTS) have been published reporting on the perioperative use of levosimendan in patients with compromised cardiac ventricular function. Taken together, many smaller trials conducted in the past suggested beneficial outcomes with levosimendan in perioperative settings. By contrast, the latest 3 studies were neutral or inconclusive. To understand the reasons for such dissimilarity, a group of experts from Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Russia, including investigators from the 3 most recent studies, met to discuss the study results in the light of both the previous literature and current clinical practice. Despite the fact that the null hypothesis could not be ruled out in the recent multicenter trials, we conclude that levosimendan can still be viewed as a safe and effective inodilator in cardiac surgery.