Echocardiographic determinations, left ventricular mass-volume ratio (M/V), left ventricular end-systolic stress (ESS), carotidofemoral pulse wave velocity (PWV), and brachial artery compliance (BAC), deduced from pulsed Doppler measurements and from the Bramwell-Hill equation, were evaluated in 20 patients with sustained essential hypertension in comparison with 20 control subjects of the same age and sex. In hypertensive patients, M/V ratio, ESS, and PWV were significantly increased while BAC was reduced. In the overall population, ESS was directly correlated with PWV (r = 0.73), and M/V ratio was significantly correlated with PWV (r = 0.60), BAC (r = -0.70), and systolic arterial pressure (r = 0.71). No comparable results were observed with diastolic arterial pressure. PWV was unchanged after cadralazine, a dihydralazine-like substance, and was decreased with the same blood pressure reduction following nitrendipine, a new calcium-blocking agent. These results suggest that: (1) the distensibility of large arteries plays an important role in the maintenance of cardiac hypertrophy in hypertension, and (2) antihypertensive drugs may act differently on arterial distensibility with possible consequences on ESS and reversion of left ventricular hypertrophy.