BACKGROUND: Intravenous infusion of nesiritide, a brain (B-type) natriuretic peptide, has beneficial hemodynamic effects in patients with decompensated congestive heart failure. We investigated the clinical use of nesiritide in such patients. METHODS: Patients hospitalized because of symptomatic congestive heart failure were enrolled in either an efficacy trial or a comparative trial. In the efficacy trial, which required the placement of a Swan-Ganz catheter, 127 patients with a pulmonary-capillary wedge pressure of 18 mm Hg or higher and a cardiac index of 2.7 liters per minute per square meter of body-surface area or less were randomly assigned to double-blind treatment with placebo or nesiritide (infused at a rate of 0.015 or 0.030 microg per kilogram of body weight per minute) for six hours. In the comparative trial, which did not require hemodynamic monitoring, 305 patients were randomly assigned to open-label therapy with standard agents or nesiritide for up to seven days. RESULTS: In the efficacy trial, at six hours, nesiritide infusion at rates of 0.015 and 0.030 microg per kilogram per minute decreased pulmonary-capillary wedge pressure by 6.0 and 9.6 mm Hg, respectively (as compared with an increase of 2.0 mm Hg with placebo, P<0.001), resulted in improvements in global clinical status in 60 percent and 67 percent of the patients (as compared with 14 percent of those receiving placebo, P<0.001), reduced dyspnea in 57 percent and 53 percent of the patients (as compared with 12 percent of those receiving placebo, P<0.001), and reduced fatigue in 32 percent and 38 percent of the patients (as compared with 5 percent of those receiving placebo, P<0.001). In the comparative trial, the improvements in global clinical status, dyspnea, and fatigue were sustained with nesiritide therapy for up to seven days and were similar to those observed with standard intravenous therapy for heart failure. The most common side effect was dose-related hypotension, which was usually asymptomatic. CONCLUSIONS: In patients hospitalized with decompensated congestive heart failure, nesiritide improves hemodynamic function and clinical status. Nesiritide is useful for the treatment of decompensated congestive heart failure.