The influence of vasodilators on augmentation index (AIx) offers a simple, rapid and noninvasive method of evaluating vascular function. Glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) is widely used as an endothelium-independent vasodilator, although other nitrates that are shorter acting may have advantages in clinical studies. The aim of this study was to compare the effects of two short-acting nitrates, GTN and amyl nitrite, which have differing pharmacodynamic profiles.
Twenty-one healthy volunteers (15 male; mean age 35 years, range 21–56 years) attended on three occasions and received sublingual GTN (0.5 mg for 3 min), inhaled amyl nitrite (0.2 ml inhaled for 30 s), or no treatment in a randomized cross-over design. Haemodynamic responses of AIx, blood pressure and thoracic bioimpedance (heart rate, cardiac index) were assessed by measurement at baseline, every 60 s for the first 5 min, and then every 5 min for a further 55 min.
AIx was reduced by amyl nitrite (peak effect −9 ± 2% at 1 min, P < 0.002) and GTN (peak effect −12 ± 3% at 4 min, P < 0.05). Compared with amyl nitrite, the onset and offset of action of GTN was slower. Amyl nitrite initially increased heart rate by 27 ± 4% (P < 0.001) and cardiac index by 13 ± 3% (P < 0.001) whereas GTN had no significant effect (P > 0.05). Neither agent affected blood pressure.
GTN causes a slower and more sustained reduction in AIx than amyl nitrite. Although amyl nitrite causes a more rapid fall and recovery in AIx, it induces a reflex tachycardia that may limit interpretation of the initial (1 min) but not later (2 min) changes in AIx. The prolonged offset of GTN suggests that a sufficient washout period must be included when making repeated measures or when assessing the subsequent effects of other agents.