Vasodilators work on different substances
in the body to help widen (dilate) blood vessels. It is easier for the heart to
pump blood if the blood vessels are widened.
Vasodilators can improve
heart failure symptoms by:
Vasodilators are often combined with
other medicines to treat
heart failure. Hydralazine taken with a nitrate may be
used as an alternative to angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors if ACE
inhibitors cannot be tolerated.1
For heart failure, hydralazine is
typically used along with a nitrate. But nitrates may be used alone, without
hydralazine, if you are taking it to relieve
If you take hydralazine
with a nitrate, you will also take other medicines for heart failure such as
ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers. This combination of medicines may help
relieve symptoms and lower the risk of early death. This benefit has been shown
in African Americans but has not been shown in other groups of people.2
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
See Drug Reference for a full
list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
Do not take an erection-enhancing medicine such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra) if you are taking a nitrate. Combining these two drugs can cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.
If you have angina, you might take nitroglycerin to manage your symptoms. Nitroglycerin for angina is taken as a
pill or a liquid spray. Skin patches or paste are also available to prevent
angina. For more information, see:
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
For tips on taking medicine for heart failure, see:
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Drugs for treatment of chronic heart failure (2009). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 7(83): 53–56.
Hunt SA, et al. (2009). 2009 focused update
incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2005 guidelines for the diagnosis and management
of heart failure in adults. A report of the American College of Cardiology
Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines.
Circulation, 119(14): e391–e479.
April 26, 2012
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
& Margaret Hetherington, PHM, BsC - Pharmacy
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