Drugs That Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Heart Performance (Vasolidators)

NOTE: Vasodilators are sometimes also called direct vasodilators.


Isosorbide - Very useful drug in treatment and prevention of angina pectoris. Tolerance to this drug can occur. A daily drug free interval of 10-14 hours is recommended.

Nitroglycerin - Nitroglycerin is a mainstay of therapy in treatment of angina pectoris. It may be dissolved or sprayed under the tongue (sublingual), absorbed through the skin or given IV.

Nitroprusside - Nitroprusside is a very powerful drug. It has a rapid onset of action when started and its effect goes away quickly when it is stopped.

What are vasodilator drugs?

These drugs help your blood vessels relax and open. They are used to lower blood pressure and to improve blood flow to the heart muscle and other organs.

Why is it given?

The doctor determines that the patient's blood pressure is too high and/or that improved blood flow through the vessels to the heart is needed.

How long is it used?

Some of these drugs, for example nitroprusside, are used for a short time only. This is normally limited to several days. Other drugs may be used for a longer time, particularly if there is decreased blood flow to the heart. Under these circumstances, some forms of these drugs may be used for the rest of the patient's life.

Does it have side effects?

Side effects do occur. Occasionally, the blood pressure is lowered too much with these agents and the doctor usually relieves this problem by reducing the dose. Patients may develop headaches while receiving these drugs.