What is dopamine, and what is it used for?
Dopamine is a medication administered intravenously to correct imbalances in the blood circulation dynamics (hemodynamics) due to shock, including low blood pressure (hypotension), low cardiac output, and poor perfusion of vital organs. Hemodynamic imbalance can be caused by conditions such as heart attack (myocardial infarction), cardiac arrest, open-heart surgery, trauma, septic shock, kidney failure, and decompensated heart failure.
Dopamine is both a hormone (catecholamine) and a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter), produced in the brain and adrenal gland, and has multiple functions. Dopamine is most known for its central nervous system role as a neurotransmitter in the regulation of movement, learning, memory, cognition, and emotion. Peripherally, dopamine has many functions some of which include:
- Mediating changes in blood flow
- Dilating blood vessels in kidneys and the intestinal area
- Increasing glomerular filtration rate (GFR)
- Increasing sodium and water excretion in the kidneys
- Stimulating contraction of the cardiac muscles (myocardium)
Dopamine manufactured in the lab works like natural dopamine. In the treatment of hemodynamic imbalance, dopamine stimulates cardiac muscle contraction and increases the heart rate, which results in improved cardiac output. Its vasodilatory effects improve blood flow to vital organs such as the kidneys, enhancing their function.
Low dose of dopamine increases blood flow to the kidneys and urine output. Intermediate dose increases renal blood flow, heart rate, cardiac contractility, and cardiac output. High dose results in constriction of blood vessels and increase in blood pressure in addition to the cardiac effects.
Apart from the use in hemodynamic conditions, dopamine is also being investigated for use in prevention of intraventricular hemorrhage in premature newborns (orphan designation).