The current status of the use of vasodilator drugs in the treatment of acute and chronic heart failure has been reviewed. It is apparent that vasodilator treatment can be used effectively in some patients with heart failure with a beneficial haemodynamics response, and that vasodilator agents are likely to find an important place in the management of such patients. Vasodilator treatment may be associated with complications and must be used with care. Though several nonparenteral vasodilator agents have been investigated, no ideal drug is yet available for the treatment of chronic heart failure. Nevertheless, it is probable that suitable drugs will emerge and find an important place in the management of such patients.