The immediate haemodynamic dose response effects of beta blockade (propranolol: 2 to 16 mg) were compared with those of combined alpha beta blockade (labetalol: 10 to 80 mg) in a randomised study of 20 patients with stable angina pectoris. After control measurements, the circulatory changes induced by four logarithmically cumulative intravenous boluses of each drug in equivalent beta blocking doses were evaluated at rest, after which comparison of the effects of the maximum cumulative dose of each was undertaken during a four minute period of supine bicycle exercise. Propranolol, at rest, induced significant dose related reductions in heart rate and cardiac output, with reciprocal increases in the systemic vascular resistance and pulmonary artery occluded pressure; systemic arterial pressure was unchanged. Labetalol was followed by significant dose related decreases in systemic blood pressure and vascular resistance associated with a significant increase in cardiac output; heart rate and pulmonary artery occluded pressure were unchanged. The slope of the left ventricular pumping function curve relating output to filling pressure from rest to exercise was significantly depressed by propranolol but unchanged after labetalol. The less deleterious effects on left ventricular haemodynamic performance after alpha beta blockade in contrast to beta blockade alone in ischaemic heart disease may be attributable to the concomitant reduction in left ventricular afterload associated with the alpha blocking activity of labetalol.
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