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Crit Care. 2001;5(3):158-66. Epub 2001 Apr 26.

The effects of dopamine and epinephrine on hemodynamics and oxygen metabolism in hypoxic anesthetized piglets.

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McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



The most appropriate inotropic agent for use in the newborn is uncertain. Dopamine and epinephrine are commonly used, but have unknown effects during hypoxia and pulmonary hypertension; the effects on the splanchnic circulation, in particular, are unclear.


The effects on the systemic, pulmonary, hepatic, and mesenteric circulations of infusions of dopamine and epinephrine (adrenaline) were compared in 17 newborn piglets. Three groups [control (n = 5), dopamine (n = 6) and epinephrine (n = 6)] of fentanyl anesthetized newborn piglets were instrumented to measure cardiac index (CI), hepatic arterial and portal venous blood flow, mean systemic arterial pressure (SAP), mean pulmonary arterial pressure (PAP), and arterial, portal and mixed venous oxygen saturations. Systemic, pulmonary, and mesenteric vascular resistance indices [systemic vascular resistance index (SVRI), pulmonary vascular resistance index (PVRI), mesenteric vascular resistance index (MVRI)], and systemic and splanchnic oxygen extraction and consumption were calculated. Alveolar hypoxia was induced, with arterial oxygen saturation being maintained at 55-65%. After 1 h of stabilization during hypoxia, each animal received either dopamine or epinephrine; randomly administered doses of 2, 10, and 32 microg kg-1 min-1 and 0.2, 1.0, and 3.2 microg kg-1 min-1 respectively were infused for 1 h at each dose. Results were compared with the 1 h hypoxia values by two-way analysis of variance.


Epinephrine increased CI at all doses, with no significant effects on SAP and SVRI. Although epinephrine increased PAP at 3.2 microg kg-1min-1, it had no effect on PVRI. Dopamine had no effect on CI, SAP, and SVRI, but increased PAP at all doses and PVRI at 32 microg kg-1min-1. The SAP/PAP ratio was decreased with 32 microg kg-1min-1 dopamine, whereas epinephrine did not affect the ratio. In the mesenteric circulation, dopamine at 32 microg kg-1 min-1 increased portal venous flow and total hepatic blood flow and oxygen delivery, and decreased MVRI; epinephrine had no effect on these variables. Epinephrine increased hepatic arterial flow at 0.2 microg kg-1 min-1; dopamine had no effect on hepatic arterial flow at any dose. Despite these hemodynamic changes, there were no differences in systemic or splanchnic oxygen extraction or consumption at any dose of dopamine or epinephrine.


Epinephrine is more effective than dopamine at increasing cardiac output during hypoxia in this model. Although epinephrine preserves the SAP/PAP ratio, dopamine shows preferential pulmonary vasoconstriction, which might be detrimental if it also occurs during the management of infants with persistent fetal circulation. Dopamine, but not epinephrine, increases portal flow and total hepatic flow during hypoxia.

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