Only a small percentage of patients with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension are eligible for pulmonary thrombendarterectomy. We investigated the effects of oral sildenafil on hemodynamics and exercise capacity in 12 nonoperable chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension patients. All patients were in disease progression despite sufficient long-term anticoagulation and the best supportive care and suffered from severe pulmonary hypertension (pulmonary vascular resistance index 1,935 +/- 228 dyn. s. cm-5. m2, cardiac index 2.0 l. min-1. m-2, 6-minute walking distance 312 +/- 30 m). After approximately 6 months of sildenafil treatment, pulmonary hemodynamics and exercise capacity improved significantly (pulmonary vascular resistance index 1,361 +/- 177 L. min-1. m2, p = 0.004, cardiac index 2.4 +/- 0.2 L. min-1. m-2, p = 0.009, 6-minute walking distance 366 +/- 28 m, p = 0.02). Therefore, oral sildenafil may offer a new option for medical treatment of this devastating disease.