Dopamine depresses minute ventilation in patients with heart failure

Philippe Van De Borne, Ron Oren, Virend K. Somers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Background - Low-dose dopamine is frequently used in patients in the intensive care setting. Dopamine may inhibit chemoreceptor afferents and hence decrease chemoreflex sensitivity to hypoxia. Methods and Results - In a double-blind, randomized, crossover study, we determined the effects of dopamine (5 μ · kg-1 · min-1) and placebo infusion on oxygen saturation, minute ventilation, and sympathetic nerve activity during normoxia and 5 minutes of hypoxia in 10 normal young subjects. We further investigated the effects of dopamine and placebo on minute ventilation during normoxic breathing in 8 patients with severe heart failure and in 8 age- matched control subjects. Dopamine did not decrease minute ventilation during normoxia in normal subjects. During hypoxia, minute ventilation was 12.9±1.3 L/min on dopamine and 15.8±1.5 L/min on placebo (P<0.0001). Oxygen saturation during hypoxia was lower with dopamine (78±3%) than placebo (84±2%; P<0.0001). Sympathetic nerve activity during hypoxia was not enhanced with dopamine despite the lower O2 saturation. Subjects were able to maintain a voluntary apnea to a lower oxygen saturation on dopamine than on placebo (P<0.05). In heart failure patients breathing room air, but not in age-matched control subjects, dopamine decreased minute ventilation despite decreased oxygen saturation and increased PETCO2 during dopamine (all P≤0.02). Conclusions - Dopamine inhibits chemoreflex responses during hypoxic breathing in normal humans, preferentially affecting the ventilatory response more than the sympathetic response. Dopamine also depresses ventilation in normoxic heart failure patients breathing room air. Ventilatory inhibition by low-dose dopamine may adversely influence outcome in hypoxic patients, especially in patients with heart failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126
Number of pages1
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 14 1998


  • Dopamine
  • Heart failure
  • Nervous system, sympathetic
  • Ventilation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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