Nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation for assessment of vascular function: a comparison with flow-mediated vasodilation

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2013 Jun;33(6):1401-8. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.112.300934. Epub 2013 Mar 21.


Objective: Nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation has been used as a control test for flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD) to differentiate endothelium-dependent from endothelium-independent response when evaluating endothelial function in humans. Recently, nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation has also been reported to be impaired in patients with atherosclerosis. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationships between nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation and cardiovascular risk factors.

Approach and results: We measured nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation and FMD in 436 subjects who underwent health examinations (mean age, 53 ± 19 years; age range, 19-86 years), including patients with cardiovascular diseases. There was a significant relationship between nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation and FMD (r=0.42; P<0.001). Univariate regression analysis revealed that nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation correlated with age (r=-0.34; P<0.001), systolic blood pressure (r=-0.32; P<0.001), diastolic blood pressure (r=-0.24; P<0.001), heart rate (r=-0.21; P<0.001), glucose (r=-0.23; P<0.001), and smoking pack-year (r=-0.12; P=0.01), as well as Framingham risk score (r=-0.30; P<0.001). Nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation was significantly smaller in patients with cardiovascular disease than in both subjects with and without cardiovascular risk factors (10.5 ± 5.6% versus 13.7 ± 5.4% and 15.3 ± 4.3%; P<0.001, respectively), whereas there was no significant difference in nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation between subjects with and without cardiovascular risk factors. Multivariate analysis revealed that male sex, body mass index, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, baseline brachial artery diameter, and FMD were independent predictors of nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation may be a marker of the grade of atherosclerosis. FMD should be interpreted as an index of vascular function reflecting both endothelium-dependent vasodilation and endothelium-independent vasodilation in subjects with impaired nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; cardiovascular risk factors; flow-mediated vasodilation; nitroglycerine-induced vasodilation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Angiography / methods
  • Atherosclerosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Nitroglycerin / pharmacology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Vascular Patency / physiology
  • Vasodilation / drug effects*
  • Young Adult


  • Nitroglycerin