NEW HAVEN — Loop diuretics, more commonly known as water pills, are the most widely prescribed heart failure medications, but few studies had extensively compared their effectiveness until Yale School of Medicine researchers examined three approved loop diuretics and found that even though one of them might offer more benefit, it is rarely prescribed.

Published in the April 1 edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the research compared the potential benefits of using one of three loop diuretics: toresemide, furosemide and bumetanide.

The team found that among 274,515 hospitalizations for heart failure during 2009 and 2010 across a large group of U.S. hospitals, 92 percent received loop diuretics during their hospital stay. Of those, 87 percent received furosemide as their only loop diuretic, 3 percent received bumetanide, and only 0.4 percent received torsemide (10 percent received a combination).

Although torsemide is slightly more expensive, the few available studies suggest that it lasts longer, is better tolerated, and might be associated with better clinical outcomes compared with the two other available water pills.