The use of nitrates in various sublingual, oral, topical and intravenous forms of treatment of patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) is based on their efficacy in dilating capacitance vessels and reducing elevated ventricular diastolic pressure on both the left and right sides of the heart. Their modest arteriolar and arterial dilating effect may also decrease aortic impedance and produce a slight increase in stroke volume despite the reduction in preload. This favorable hemodynamic response requires relatively large doses of the nitrates but these doses are remarkably well tolerated in the majority of patients with CHF. In chronic CHF there has been evidence from small controlled trials of clinical efficacy (increased exercise tolerance and reduction in symptomatology) as well as hemodynamic efficacy. The combination of nitrates with a more potent arteriolar dilator such as hydralazine or minoxidil has produced a more striking acute hemodynamic benefit. Long-term response to such combined therapy is currently the subject of a Veterans Administration cooperative study. The current recommended approach to nitrate therapy in patients with CHF is to use the dosage necessary to normalize ventricular filling pressure. This can be best assessed in the clinic by monitoring jugular venous pressure. This response often requires dosages of isosorbide dinitrate of 160 to 320 mg daily. Transdermal preparations of nitroglycerin may give more constant blood levels but a large dosage is usually required to produce a sustained hemodynamic effect (40 to 80 cm2). Although the definitive study to determine longterm efficacy and dosage requirements of nitrates in CHF is yet to be reported, experience to date suggests that these agents may be very efficacious when properly used in selected patients with CHF.