Alprostadil causes vasodilation by means of a direct effect on vascular and ductus arteriosus (DA) smooth muscle, preventing or reversing the functional closure of the DA that occurs shortly after birth. This is because, as a form of prostaglandinE1 (PGE1) it has multiple effects on blood flow. This results in increased pulmonary or systemic blood flow in infants. In cyanotic congenital heart disease, alprostadil's actions result in an increased oxygen supply to the tissues. In infants with interrupted aortic arch or very severe aortic coarctation, alprostadil maintains distal aortic perfusion by permitting blood flow through the DA from the pulmonary artery to the aorta. In infants with aortic coarctation, alprostadil reduces aortic obstruction either by relaxing ductus tissue in the aortic wall or by increasing effective aortic diameter by dilating the DA. In infants with these aortic arch anomalies, systemic blood flow to the lower body is increased, improving tissue oxygen supply and renal perfusion. When administered by intracavernosal injection or as an intraurethral suppository, alprostadil acts locally to relax the trabecular smooth muscle of the corpora cavernosa and the cavernosal arteries. Swelling, elongation, and rigidity of the penis result when arterial blood rapidly flows into the corpus cavernosum to expand the lacunar spaces. The entrapped blood reduces the venous blood outflow as sinusoids compress against the tunica albuginea.
Alprostadil (prostaglandin E1) is produced endogenously to relax vascular smooth muscle and cause vasodilation. In adult males, the vasodilatory effects of alprostadil on the cavernosal arteries and the trabecular smooth muscle of the corpora cavernosa result in rapid arteriolar inflow and expansion of the lacunar spaces within the corpora. As the expanded corporal sinusoids are compressed against the tunica albuginea, venous outflow through the subtunical vessels is impeded and penile rigidity develops. This is referred to as the corporal veno-occlusive mechanism. In infants, the vasodilatory effects of alprostadil increase pulmonary or systemic blood flow.
Alprostadil must be infused continuously because it is very rapidly metabolized. As much as 80% of the circulating alprostadil may be metabolized in one pass through the lungs, primarily by beta- and omega-oxidation.
Oral, mouse: LD50 = 186 mg/kg; Oral, rat: LD50 = 228 mg/kg. Apnea, bradycardia, pyrexia, hypotension, and flushing may be signs of drug overdosage.