(proe pran' oh lole)
Apo-Propranolol (CAN), Inderal, Inderal LA, Novopranol (CAN), PMS-Propranolol (CAN)

Drug classes
Therapeutic actions
Contraindications and cautions
Available forms
  Pediatric patients
IV facts
Adverse effects
  Drug-lab test
Nursing considerations Assessment
Teaching points


Drug classes

Beta-adrenergic blocker (nonselective)
Antianginal agent

Therapeutic actions

Competitively blocks beta-adrenergic receptors in the heart and juxtoglomerular apparatus, decreasing the influence of the sympathetic nervous system on these tissues, the excitability of the heart, cardiac workload and oxygen consumption, and the release of renin and lowering BP; has membrane-stabilizing (local anesthetic) effects that contribute to its antiarrhythmic action; acts in the CNS to reduce sympathetic outflow and vasoconstrictor tone. The mechanism by which it prevents migraine headaches is unknown.


• Hypertension alone or with other drugs, especially diuretics
• Angina pectoris caused by coronary atherosclerosis
• IHSS to manage associated stress-induced angina, palpitations, and syncope
• Cardiac arrhythmias, especially supraventricular tachycardia, and ventricular tachycardias induced by digitalis or catecholamines
• Prevention of reinfarction in clinically stable patients 1–4 wk after MI
• Pheochromocytoma, an adjunctive therapy after treatment with an alpha-adrenergic blocker to manage tachycardia before or during surgery or if the pheochromocytoma is inoperable
• Prophylaxis for migraine headache
• Management of acute situational stress reaction (stage fright)
• Treatment of essential tremor, familial or hereditary
• Unlabeled uses: recurrent GI bleeding in cirrhotic patients, schizophrenia, tardive dyskinesia, acute panic symptoms, vaginal contraceptive

Contraindications and cautions

• Contraindicated with allergy to beta-blocking agents, sinus bradycardia, second- or third-degree heart block, cardiogenic shock, CHF, bronchial asthma, bronchospasm, COPD, pregnancy (neonatal bradycardia, hypoglycemia, and apnea, and low birth weight with long-term use during pregnancy), lactation.
• Use cautiously with hypoglycemia and diabetes, thyrotoxicosis, hepatic dysfunction.

Available forms

ER capsules—60, 80, 120, 160 mg; tablets—10, 20, 40, 60, 80, 90 mg; SR capsules—60, 80, 120, 160 mg; injection—1 mg/mL; oral solution—4, 8 mg/mL; concentrated oral solution—80 mg/mL



•  Hypertension: 40 mg regular propranolol bid or 80 mg sustained-release (SR) daily initially; usual maintenance dose, 120–240 mg/day given bid or tid or 120–160 mg SR daily (maximum dose, 640 mg/day).
•  Angina: 10–20 mg tid or qid or 80 mg SR daily initially; gradually increase dosage at 3- to 7-day intervals; usual maintenance dose, 160 mg/day (maximum dose, 320 mg/day).
•  IHSS: 20–40 mg tid or qid or 80–160 mg SR daily.
•  Arrhythmias: 10–30 mg tid or qid.
•  MI: 180–240 mg/day given tid or qid (maximum dose, 240 mg/day).
•  Pheochromocytoma: Preoperatively, 60 mg/day for 3 days in divided doses; inoperable tumor, 30 mg/day in divided doses.
•  Migraine: 80 mg/day daily (SR) or in divided doses; usual maintenance dose, 160–240 mg/day.
•  Essential tremor: 40 mg bid; usual maintenance dose, 120 mg/day.
•  Situational anxiety: 40 mg, timing based on the usual onset of action.

•  Life-threatening arrhythmias: 1–3 mg IV with careful monitoring, not to exceed 1 mg/min; may give second dose in 2 min, but then do not repeat for 4 hr. (Note: IV dose is markedly less than oral because of first-pass effect with oral propranolol).

Pediatric patients

Safety and efficacy not established.


Route Onset Peak Duration
Oral 20–30 min 60–90 min 6–12 hr
IV Immediate 1 min 4–6 hr

Metabolism: Hepatic; T ½: 3–5 hr

Distribution: Crosses placenta; enters breast milk

Excretion: Urine

IV facts

Preparation: No further preparation is needed.

Infusion: Inject directly IV or into tubing of running IV; do not exceed 1 mg/min.

Adverse effects

Adverse effects in Italics are most common; those in Bold are life-threatening.

•  Allergic reactions: Pharyngitis, erythematous rash, fever, sore throat, laryngospasm, respiratory distress
•  CNS: Dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, fatigue, emotional depression, paresthesias, sleep disturbances, hallucinations, disorientation, memory loss, slurred speech
•  CV: Bradycardia, CHF, cardiac arrhythmias, sinoatrial or AV nodal block, peripheral vascular insufficiency, claudication, CVA, pulmonary edema, hypotension
•  Dermatologic: Rash, pruritus, sweating, dry skin
•  EENT: Eye irritation, dry eyes, conjunctivitis, blurred vision
•  GI: Gastric pain, flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, ischemic colitis, renal and mesenteric arterial thrombosis, retroperitoneal fibrosis, hepatomegaly, acute pancreatitis
•  GU: Impotence, decreased libido, Peyronie's disease, dysuria, nocturia, frequency
•  Musculoskeletal: Joint pain, arthralgia, muscle cramp
•  Respiratory: Bronchospasm, dyspnea, cough, bronchial obstruction, nasal stuffiness, rhinitis, pharyngitis
•  Other: Decreased exercise tolerance, development of ANAs, hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, elevated serum transaminase, alkaline phosphatase, and LDH



• Increased effects with verapamil
• Decreased effects with indomethacin, ibuprofen, piroxicam, sulindac, barbiturates
• Prolonged hypoglycemic effects of insulin
• Initial hypertensive episode followed by bradycardia with epinephrine
• Increased first-dose response to prazosin
• Increased serum levels and toxic effects with lidocaine, cimetidine
• Increased serum levels of propranolol and phenothiazines, hydralazine if the two drugs are taken concurrently
• Paradoxical hypertension when clonidine is given with beta-blockers; increased rebound hypertension when clonidine is discontinued in patients on beta-blockers
• Decreased serum levels and therapeutic effects with methimazole, propylthiouracil
• Decreased bronchodilator effects of theophyllines
• Decreased antihypertensive effects with NSAIDs (ie, ibuprofen, indomethacin, piroxicam, sulindac), rifampin

Drug-lab test

• Interference with glucose or insulin tolerance tests, glaucoma screening tests

Nursing considerations Assessment

•  History: Allergy to beta-blocking agents, sinus bradycardia, second- or third-degree heart block, cardiogenic shock, CHF, bronchial asthma, bronchospasm, COPD, hypoglycemia and diabetes, thyrotoxicosis, hepatic dysfunction, pregnancy, lactation
•  Physical: Weight, skin color, lesions, edema, T; reflexes, affect, vision, hearing, orientation; BP, P, ECG, peripheral perfusion; R, auscultation; bowel sounds, normal output, liver evaluation; bladder palpation; liver and thyroid function tests; blood and urine glucose


• Do not discontinue drug abruptly after long-term therapy (hypersensitivity to catecholamines may have developed, causing exacerbation of angina, MI, and ventricular arrhythmias). Taper drug gradually over 2 wk with monitoring.
• Ensure that alpha-adrenergic blocker has been given before giving propranolol when treating patients with pheochromocytoma; endogenous catecholamines secreted by the tumor can cause severe hypertension if vascular beta receptors are blocked without concomitant alpha blockade.
• Consult with physician about withdrawing drug if patient is to undergo surgery (withdrawal is controversial).
• Provide continuous cardiac and regular BP monitoring with IV form.
• Give oral drug with food to facilitate absorption.

Teaching points

• Take this drug with meals. Do not discontinue the medication abruptly; abrupt discontinuation can cause a worsening of your disorder.
• These side effects may occur: dizziness, drowsiness, light-headedness, blurred vision (avoid driving or performing hazardous tasks); nausea, loss of appetite (frequent, small meals may help); nightmares, depression (request change of your medication); sexual impotence.
• Report difficulty breathing, night cough, swelling of extremities, slow pulse, confusion, depression, rash, fever, sore throat.
• For diabetic patients: The normal signs of hypoglycemia (sweating, tachycardia) may be blocked by this drug; monitor your blood/urine glucose carefully; eat regular meals and take your diabetic medication regularly.

Copyright © 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Amy M. Karch
2004 Lippincott's Nursing Drug Guide