The link between arterial caliber and distensibility has been studied extensively, with conflicting results. As have other researchers, we previously showed evidence of an increase in arterial diameter and a decrease in arterial stiffness with use of nitrates at the site of the brachial artery (BA) and the aorta. Whether these results would apply to other large superficial arteries remained to be established. In the present study, by means of an original pulsed ultrasound echo-tracking system based on Doppler shift, we measured internal diastolic diameter and stroke change in diameter of the common carotid artery (CCA), the femoral artery, and the BA in patients with essential hypertension and determined the acute effects of administration of isosorbide dinitrate (ISDN 20 mg). Twenty untreated hypertensive patients entered this randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, parallel study. No significant change occurred during placebo. During ISDN therapy, blood pressure (BP) decreased significantly; cross-sectional compliance increased at the site of the CCA, the BA, and the common femoral artery (CFA). The increase in cross-sectional compliance was mainly due to an increase in internal diameter for CCA and to an increase in distensibility coefficient (DC) for BA. The pattern of cross-sectional compliance was intermediate for CFA. During ISDN therapy, the augmentation index of the CCA distension waveform was significantly reduced, whereas no change occurred during placebo, suggesting a reduction in wave reflection by nitrates. These results indicate a heterogeneous response of arterial territories to ISDN therapy and suggest that arterial dilation is not necessarily associated with improvement in the DC. In addition, analysis of the carotid artery distension waveform may provide information not only on the local vasodilating effect of the drug but also on arterial wave reflection, i.e., on the peripheral vasodilating effect of the drug.