The toxicity associated with propranolol is for the most part related to its primary pharmacological action, inhibition of the cardiac p-adrenoceptors. This topic is discussed in detail in Chapter 11. In addition, propranolol exerts direct cardiac depressant effects that become manifest when the drug is administered rapidly by the IV route. Glucagon immediately reverses all cardiac depressant effects of propranolol, and its use is associated with a minimum of side effects. The inotropic agents amrinone (Inocor) and milrinone (Primacor) provide alternative means of augmenting cardiac contractile function in the presence of p-adrenoceptor blockade (see Chapter 15). Propranolol may also stimulate bron-chospasm in patients with asthma.
Since propranolol crosses the placenta and enters the fetal circulation, fetal cardiac responses to the stresses of labor and delivery will be blocked. Additionally, propranolol crosses the blood-brain barrier and is associated with mood changes and depression. School difficulties are commonly associated with its use in children. Propranolol may also cause hypoglycemia in infants.
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