1. To investigate whether reduced activity of pressor systems could explain the spontaneous drop in pressure upon hospitalization, 51 subjects with uncomplicated essential hypertension were admitted to hospital. Sodium intake was fixed at 55 mmol/day.
2. Blood samples for noradrenaline, adrenaline, active renin, angiotensin II and aldosterone were drawn on each morning of the first 3 days of hospitalization; blood pressure was measured at 2 h intervals and values were averaged for each day.
3. Subjects were divided in two groups depending on whether they became normotensive (group 1; n = 12) or remained hypertensive (group 2; n = 39). This distinction was thought to reflect mild and more severe hypertensive groups respectively.
4. Although both groups showed a comparable fall in blood pressure during hospitalization, noradrenaline levels fell more consistently in group 1, whereas adrenaline levels fell only in group 2. The components of the renin—angiotensin—aldosterone system rose, but more conspicuously in group 1.
5. It is concluded that withdrawal of sympathetic activity can only partly explain the hypotensive response to hospitalization. The renin—angiotensin system behaves only passively and appears to be counterproductive to alterations in blood pressure.