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If you have coronary artery disease, you may benefit from using nitroglycerin. This prescription drug is designed for many uses, but can help prevent or treat angina (chest pain). It works by relaxing the arteries and the veins, which helps improve blood flow to the heart. Some forms of nitroglycerin are used to prevent angina attacks, while others help treat an attack that is already occurring.

What Is Nitroglycerin Used For?

Nitroglycerin (Minitran™, Nitro-Bid®, Nitro-Dur®, Nitrolingual®, NitroMist®, Nitrostat®, Rectiv™) is a prescription medication approved for several different uses, depending on the product.
Nitroglycerin tablets (Nitrostat) and spray (Nitrolingual or NitroMist) are approved for treating attacks of angina pectoris caused by coronary artery disease. This means that this drug is approved to relieve episodes of chest pain caused by coronary artery disease (also known as coronary heart disease), a condition in which the small blood vessels that supply oxygen to the heart become too narrow to adequately supply the heart with enough blood and oxygen.
These products are also approved for use immediately prior to activities that will likely result in chest pain. Typically, these activities involve physical exertion, such as exercise or sexual intercourse.
Long-acting forms of nitroglycerin, including the extended-release capsules, high-dose ointment (Nitro-Bid), and patches (Minitran and Nitro-Dur), are approved for preventing chest pain. These products are used on a daily basis to prevent angina attacks. They are not appropriate for use on an as-needed basis to treat an attack that has already started.
A lower-dose nitroglycerin ointment (Rectiv™) is approved for treating moderate-to-severe pain associated with chronic anal fissures.
Nitroglycerin given intravenously (by IV) is used for several purposes. It is approved to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) during surgery. It is also used to treat chest pain or to control congestive heart failure during heart attacks. The medication is sometimes used to purposefully cause low blood pressure during surgeries, which is sometimes done to help prevent excessive blood loss in certain types of surgeries.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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