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Ann Pharmacother. 2004 May;38(5):755-9. Epub 2004 Mar 23.

Fenoldopam versus nitroprusside for the treatment of hypertensive emergency.

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School of Pharmacy, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115-5001, USA.



While sodium nitroprusside remains first-line therapy for hypertensive emergency (HEM), fenoldopam is increasingly being used because of its benign safety profile and potential renal protective effects.


To compare the efficacy, safety, and cost of sodium nitroprusside versus fenoldopam for the treatment of HEM.


This study was a retrospective analysis of consecutive patients with HEM admitted to a university-affiliated, level 1 trauma center from 1999 to 2001 and treated with either nitroprusside (n = 21) or fenoldopam (n = 22) for >30 minutes. Time to reach mean arterial pressure (MAP) goal, change in MAP over time, time to initiation of oral antihypertensive therapy, change in renal function, incidence of cyanide toxicity, and cost of therapy were compared between groups.


Demographic parameters were similar between groups, except renal failure, which was more prevalent in the fenoldopam group (10% vs 46%; p = 0.009). Neither the mean +/- SD pretreatment MAP (nitroprusside 168 +/- 19; fenoldopam 163 +/- 19; p = 0.45), time to reach MAP goal (3.6 [0.4-30] vs 4 [1-22] h; p = 0.51), nor infusion duration (18 [0.7-113] vs 18 [3-74] h; p = 0.45) differed between the patient groups. Time to initiation of oral antihypertensive therapy was similar between nitroprusside--(4.5 h [0.5-22] and fenoldopam--(6.5 h [1-100] treated patients; p = 0.65). Additional intravenous antihypertensives were administered to 16 patients in each group (p = 0.80). Change in creatinine clearance and incidence of tachycardia did not differ between groups. No symptoms of cyanide toxicity were detected. Cost of drug therapy was greater with fenoldopam (597.60 dollars, 199.20-6675.20 dollars); than nitroprusside (2.66 dollars, 1.68-3.48 dollars; p < 0.001).


Treatment of HEM with fenoldopam appears to result in patient outcomes equivalent to those with nitroprusside but at a substantially higher cost. Further study is required to delineate the exact role of fenoldopam for treatment of HEM.

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