1. We investigated the haemodynamic effects of intravenously administered hydrallazine, diazoxide and nitroprusside and orally administered minoxidil to determine whether vasodilators (such as nitroprusside) which do not increase cardiac output might be better treatment for hypertensive complications associated with, or caused by, myocardial failure than those that do.

2. Hydrallazine and diazoxide caused increases in heart rate, cardiac output, cardiopulmonary blood volume, the ratio of cardiac output to cardiopulmonary volume, and pulmonary artery pressure. Nitroprusside, although decreasing pressure and vascular resistance, caused no significant change in the other functions except for reducing pulmonary artery pressure. Minoxidil, when given orally, had the potential for causing pulmonary hypertension. This seemed explained by increased flow (hyperdynamic type) in some but by congestive cardiac failure in others; the latter condition was probably intensified by the marked fluid retention that the drug can cause.

3. On the basis of these results a classification of vasodilators was constructed which depends on the presence or absence of a venodilating effect. Vasodilators which produce no (or little) venodilatation, increase heart rate, cardiac output, cardiopulmonary blood volume and pulmonary artery pressure. In this class are diazoxide, hydrallazine and minoxidil. Those that cause venodilatation do not stimulate the heart nor do they cause pulmonary hypertension. Nitroprusside and nitroglycerine are drugs of this type.

4. These results suggest that drugs producing both venodilatation and arteriolar dilatation may be more specific therapy for hypertensive complications associated with cardiac failure than those that cause only arteriolar dilatation.

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