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Nicardipine (Cardene) is a short acting, dihydropyridine calcium channel blocker (CCB) I frequently use in the perioperative and ICU settings for tight blood pressure control through afterload reduction primarily at the arteriolar level. Although it comes as an oral agent, I almost exclusively use it as a continuous intravenous (IV) infusion (with boluses). Compared to other CCBs, nicardipine tends to create more selective dilation of the coronary circulation and neurovasculature, the former being the mechanism by which it helps alleviate angina pectoris.

Managing blood pressure in post-heart-transplant patients is important, but remember that nicardipine may increase the concentration of common anti-rejection immunosuppressants (namely tacrolimus and cyclosporine). Furthermore, patients with severe/critical aortic stenosis may decompensate with such profound afterload reduction due to a drop in coronary perfusion pressure. Nicardipine is metabolized extensively by the liver, so hepatic impairment will affect its pharmacokinetics and potentially push me to use something like sodium nitroprusside (beware of cyanide toxicity) or clevedipine (a “newer” version of nicardipine metabolized by plasma enzymes).

Drop me a comment with questions! 🙂


    • Honestly, I can’t tease out how much tachycardia I see strictly due to nicardipine versus countless other factors at play. More commonly I see desaturation with the initiation of a nicardipine infusion.

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