Systemic and regional hemodynamics and cardiac structural changes were studied in 12 patients with mild to moderately severe essential hypertension before and then 90 minutes and 12 weeks after administration of captopril. Mean arterial pressure was reduced from 111 mm Hg to 96 mm Hg (p less than 0.001), and this was mediated through a fall in total peripheral resistance from 26 +/- 2 units to 23 +/- 2 units (p less than 0.01). The decreased total peripheral resistance was distributed to all circulations studied: kidney, skeletal muscle, skin and the splanchnic organs. Furthermore, left ventricular (LV) mass index diminished without altering myocardial contractility at rest. Thus, captopril lowered arterial pressure through systemic arteriolar dilatation in patients with mild to moderately severe essential hypertension and also reduced LV mass even in patients without evidence of LV hypertrophy.