AIMS/BACKGROUND: Recently a laser interferometric method for topical measurement of fundus pulsations has been developed. Fundus pulsations in the macular region are caused by the inflow and outflow of blood into the choroid. The purpose of this work was to study the influence of a peripheral vasoconstricting (the alpha 1 adrenoceptor agonist phenylephrine), a predominantly positive inotropic (the non-specific beta adrenoceptor agonist isoproterenol), and a non-specific vasodilating (sodium nitroprusside) model drug on ocular fundus pulsations to determine reproducibility and sensitivity of the method. METHODS: In a double masked randomised crossover study the drugs were administered in stepwise increasing doses to 10 male and nine female healthy volunteers. Systemic haemodynamic variables and fundus pulsations were measured at all infusion steps. RESULTS: Fundus pulsation increased during infusion of isoproterenol with statistical significance versus baseline at the lowest dose of 0.1 microgram/min. Neither peripheral vasoconstriction nor peripheral vasodilatation affected the ocular fundus pulsations. CONCLUSIONS: Measurements of fundus pulsations is a highly reproducible method in healthy subjects with low ametropy. Changes of local pulsatile ocular blood flow were detectable with our method following the infusion of isoproterenol. As systemic pharmacological vasodilatation or vasoconstriction did not change fundus pulsations, further experimental work has to be done to evaluate the sensitivity of the laser interferometric fundus pulsation measurement in various eye diseases.