Piroximone (MDL 19,205), a new imidazolone derivative, was given intravenously to 14 patients with congestive heart failure (NYHA class II-III), while under constant daily doses of digitalis and diuretics. In the first 3 patients, we determined the dose safely eliciting a favorable hemodynamic response. The subsequent 11 patients received 1 mg/kg of piroximone intravenously, and the hemodynamic effects were compared with those of sodium nitroprusside (SN) at a dose-lowering mean blood pressure by 10-20 mm Hg. Piroximone increased heart rate (13.2 +/- 2.0 beats/min, mean +/- SEM) and lowered mean arterial pressure (9 +/- 2.3 mm Hg). Both agents reduced similarly wedge pressure (6.5 +/- 2.9 and 9 +/- 2.9 mm Hg, respectively, for SN and piroximone) and total peripheral resistance. Cardiac index was increased less by SN (15%) than piroximone (48%) (p less than 0.001), and stroke work index significantly enhanced only by piroximone (p less than 0.001). The changes in loading conditions induced by the two agents being similar, it is likely that piroximone not only acts by peripheral vasodilation, but also possesses positive inotropic properties. Myocardial oxygen demand, assessed indirectly by tension-time index, was not affected by piroximone. Thus, piroximone appears to combine well-balanced vasodilator and inotropic properties which make this new agent potentially very useful for the management of congestive heart failure.