The clinical significance of nitrate tolerance in patients with chronic heart failure

M. Packer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

9 Scopus citations


Tolerance develops during the prolonged use of organic nitrates in patients with chronic heart failure in a fashion similar to its development in patients with angina pectoris, the magnitude of tolerance development being directly proportional to the frequency of dosing. When nitroglycerin is given continuously or when isosorbide dinitrate is administered frequently throughout the day (e.g., every 4 h), haemodynamic tolerance develops completely in most patients within 24-48 h. Such tolerance can be avoided, however, when these drugs are given intermittently (e.g., every 8 or 12 h). Unfortunately, most clinical trials with isosorbide dinitrate have attempted to produce continuous haemodynamic effects by administering the drug at frequent intervals; this may explain why these trials have produced equivocal results. Two mechanisms have been proposed to explain the development of tolerance in patients with chronic heart failure. According to the first hypothesis, tolerance develops as a result of the depletion of intracellular sulfhydryl groups that are essential to the ability of nitroglycerin to activate guanylate cyclase - the key enzyme in the action of nitrates on blood vessels. According to the second hypothesis, tolerance develops as a result of the activation of endogenous neurohormonal systems; the resulting vasoconstriction limits the direct effects of the nitrovasodilators. A better understanding of both mechanisms may lead to interventions that will circumvent the development of tolerance and enhance the efficacy of long-term nitrate therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-25
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean heart journal
Issue numberSUPPL. A
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

Cite this