Six clinically stable patients with cystic fibrosis (24 to 31 yr of age) and severe pulmonary impairment, right ventricular hypertrophy, and previous right-sided heart failure underwent cardiac catheterization to assess the hemodynamic effects of oxygen (fraction of inspired O2, 0.31, 0.50), phentolamine (5 mg intravenously), hydralazine (0.33 mg/kg intravenously), and nifedipine (20 mg sublingually). Measurements during dynamic exercise were also obtained before and after hydralazine therapy. Studies after 5 to 8 wk of continuous, orally administered hydralazine therapy were performed in 3 patients. The resting mean pulmonary artery pressure was 31 +/- 4 mmHg. At rest, only oxygen was a selective pulmonary vasodilator, decreasing pulmonary artery pressure and pulmonary vascular resistance in all patients. Systemic arterial pressure and resistance were not significantly changed. Phentolamine, hydralazine, and nifedipine did not alter pulmonary artery pressure or selectively affect the pulmonary vascular bed, reducing both calculated pulmonary and systemic vascular resistance, the latter to a similar or greater degree. Hydralazine and nifedipine significantly increased cardiac index and decreased systemic arterial pressure. Nifedipine mildly decreased systemic oxygenation. During exercise, the mean pulmonary artery pressure increased to 51 +/- 15 mmHg. Hydralazine increased systemic and mixed venous oxygenation both at rest and during exercise but did not alter the elevation in pulmonary artery pressure observed during exercise. After orally administered hydralazine therapy, oxygen delivery and cardiac index remained increased in 2 patients. These data support the use of oxygen but not of the other agents in patients with cystic fibrosis and chronic cor pulmonale unless the ability of hydralazine to increase oxygen delivery is determined to improve prognosis.