The effect of transdermal glyceryl trinitrate, a nitric oxide donor, on blood pressure and platelet function in acute stroke

Cerebrovasc Dis. 2001;11(3):265-72. doi: 10.1159/000047649.


Background and purpose: Hypertension is a common medical complication in acute stroke and is associated with a poor outcome. However, no large trials have assessed the effect of lowering blood pressure (BP) on outcome, and it remains unclear how BP should be managed in acute stroke. We assessed, in a double-blind randomised controlled trial, whether the nitric oxide (NO) donor glyceryl trinitrate (GTN, a known systemic and cerebral vasodilator), would lower BP and alter platelet function.

Methods: Thirty-seven patients with recent (< 5 days) ischaemic or haemorrhagic stroke were randomised by minimisation to 12 days of daily treatment with transdermal GTN or matching placebo patches. Twenty-four-hour ambulatory BP was measured before and during GTN treatment at days 0, 1 and 8. Platelet aggregation and expression of adhesion molecules were assessed at the same time points. Functional outcome (Rankin scale) and case fatality were assessed at 3 months. Analysis was by intention-to-treat.

Results: GTN significantly lowered BP by 13.0/5.2 mm Hg at day 1 and 9.3/5.0 mm Hg at day 8. The lesser reduction at day 8 than day 1 suggests that tolerance to GTN was developing. Non-significant falls of 0.9/0.6 and 3.8/0.0 mm Hg occurred at days 1 and 8, respectively, in the placebo group. GTN had no effect on heart rate, or platelet aggregation or expression of platelet adhesion molecules, including glycoproteins Ia, Ib, IIIa and P-selectin. Additionally, GTN did not alter case fatality or dependency, although the study was not powered for these outcomes.

Conclusions: Transdermal GTN, an NO donor, lowered BP by 5-8%, a clinically significant and relevant, but not excessive, degree in patients with acute stroke. However, GTN had no effect on platelet aggregation or expression of adhesion molecules. Since NO donors increase cerebral blood flow in patients with acute ischaemic stroke, GTN may be an appropriate drug for testing the effect of lowering BP on functional outcome.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Aged
  • Blood Platelets / drug effects
  • Blood Platelets / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Diastole / drug effects
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide Donors / administration & dosage
  • Nitric Oxide Donors / therapeutic use
  • Nitroglycerin / administration & dosage
  • Nitroglycerin / adverse effects
  • Nitroglycerin / therapeutic use*
  • Placebos
  • Stroke / blood
  • Stroke / drug therapy*
  • Stroke / physiopathology*
  • Systole / drug effects
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vasodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Vasodilator Agents / adverse effects
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Nitric Oxide Donors
  • Placebos
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Nitroglycerin