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Loop diuretics are diuretics that act at the ascending loop of Henle in the kidney. They are primarily used in medicine to treat hypertension and edema often due to congestive heart failure or renal insufficiency. While thiazide diuretics are more effective in patients with normal kidney function, loop diuretics are more effective in patients with impaired kidney function.
Mechanism of action
Loop diuretics act on the Na+-K+-2Cl- symporter (cotransporter) in the thick ascending limb of the loop of Henle to inhibit sodium and chloride reabsorption. This is achieved by competing for the Cl- binding site. Because magnesium and calcium reabsorption in the thick ascending limb is dependent on the positive lumen voltage gradient set up by potassium recycling through renal outer medullary potassium channel, loop diuretics also inhibit their reabsorption. By disrupting the reabsorption of these ions, loop diuretics prevent the generation of a hypertonic renal medulla. Without such a concentrated medulla, water has less of an osmotic driving force to leave the collecting duct system, ultimately resulting in increased urine production. Loop diuretics cause a decrease in the renal blood flow by this mechanism. This diuresis leaves less water to be reabsorbed into the blood, resulting in a decrease in blood volume.
A secondary effect of loop diuretics is to increase the production of prostaglandins, which results in vasodilation and increased blood supply to the kidney. NSAIDs block the COX pathway that synthesizes prostaglandins, so NSAIDs can reduce the efficacy of loop diuretics.
The collective effects of decreased blood volume and vasodilation decrease blood pressure and ameliorate edema.
Loop diuretics are principally used in the following indications:
- edema associated with heart failure, hepatic cirrhosis, renal impairment, nephrotic syndrome
- adjunct in cerebral/pulmonary edema where rapid diuresis is required (IV injection)
On the other hand, in critically ill patients with acute renal failure, loop diuretics do not appear to reduce mortality, reduce length of intensive care unit or hospital stay, or fasten any recovery of renal function.
Loop diuretic resistance
Renal insufficiency causes decreased bloodflow to the kidneys, which decreases the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and reduces the ability of loop diuretics to reach their target organ, the loop of Henle. Similarly, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also decrease GFR with comparable results. In patients with reduced GFR, ceiling dosages of loop diuretics are increased proportional to the decrease in GFR. Simultaneous treatment with a thiazide diuretic such as hydrochlorothiazide (to inhibit sodium reabsorption at multiple sites in the nephron) is often successful. Newly emerging evidence shows that glucocorticoids may be use to reverse the loop diuretic resistance in heart failure.
Patients with congestive heart failure tend to retain sodium, also necessitating an increase in dosage. The same is true for patients with increased sodium intake.
The most common adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are dose-related and relate to the effect of loop diuretics on diuresis and electrolyte balance.
Common ADRs include: hyponatremia, hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia, dehydration, hyperuricemia, gout, dizziness, postural hypotension, syncope. The loss of magnesium as a result of loop diuretics also been suggested as a possible cause of pseudogout (chondrocalcinosis)
Because furosemide, torsemide and bumetanide are technically sulfa drugs, there is a theoretical risk that patients sensitive to sulfonamides may be sensitive to these loop diuretics. This risk is stated on drug packaging inserts. However, the actual risk of crossreactivity is largely unknown and there are some sources that dispute the existence of such cross reactivity. A large New England Journal paper found that only 10% of patients with allergy to antibiotic sulfonamides were also allergic to diuretic sulfonamides, but its unclear if this represents true cross reactivity or the nature of being prone to allergy.
Examples of loop diuretics
|Loop Diuretic||Relative Potency|
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- Loop Diuretic, from the Family Practice Notebook
- Loop Diuretics at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)