A subset of patients on long-term hemodialysis have sustained hypotension, defined as a predialysis systolic pressure of < 100 mmHg. To determine the role of nitric oxide (NO), an important vasodilator, in this condition, the authors measured the plasma levels of nitrite (NO2-) and nitrate (NO3-), the known NO metabolites taken as an index of NO production, in 10 hypotensive patients on long-term hemodialysis. None of them had diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, congestive heart failure, or infection. Fifteen age and gender-matched normotensive patients on hemodialysis were selected as control subjects. Measurements of plasma levels of nitrite and nitrate based on the Greiss reaction were made. There was no significant difference in hematocrit, serum intact parathyroid hormone, total calcium, inorganic phosphorus, albumin, heart rate, cardiac index, or interdialysis weight gain between these two groups. Plasma nitrite and nitrate levels did not correlate with either predialysis serum creatinine or blood urea nitrogen. The mean arterial pressure (MAP) was significantly lower and plasma nitrite and nitrate levels were significantly higher in chronic hypotensive patients than in normotensive patients (MAP: 68.30 +/- 3.24 mmHg vs 95.20 +/- 2.44 mmHg, p < 0.001; plasma nitrite and nitrate: 72.49 +/- 14.41 mumol/L vs 36.42 +/- 5.45 mumol/L, p < 0.05). In addition, MAP from hypotensive and normotensive patients on hemodialysis was inversely correlated with plasma levels of nitrite and nitrate (r = -0.54, p < 0.01). It was concluded that enhanced NO production in this subset of patients on hemodialysis may contribute to their chronic hypotension.