Calcium channel blockers have a selective action on the cardiovascular system. They reduce the energy requirement of the heart, reduce vascular smooth muscle tone, and increase systemic blood flow. Vasodilatation occurs in both the systemic and the pulmonary systems to an extent proportional to the baseline level of vascular resistance, and results in reduction of blood pressure when it is elevated. Thus, these blockers are useful in patients with high blood pressure. Clinical experience of calcium channel blockers in hypertension is so far confined almost exclusively to verapamil and nifedipine. This article reviews the advantages and limitations of these two compounds, their acute hemodynamic effects in hypertensive subjects, and their use in the treatment of hypertensive emergencies, hypertensive encephalopathy, and pheochromocytoma, and as ventricular afterload reducing agents in hypertensive left ventricular failure. Similarities in the effects of nifedipine on systemic and pulmonary vascular tone are presented as evidence that altered intracellular Ca++ concentration is involved in the vasoconstriction seen in both systems in systemic high blood pressure. They also provide support for the hypothesis that inappropriate Ca++ handling may be involved in maintaining elevated blood pressure in human hypertension.
- Copyright © 1983 by American Heart Association