Dopamine (DA)—previously regarded simply as the precursor of norepinephrine—is now known to have its own unique effects on cardiovascular regulation which are mediated, in part, by activating specific DA receptors. DA has long been used in the treatment of shock and heart failure. In recent years it has been used at low infusion rates for its renal effects, in combination with other more specific inotropic or pressor agents. Lack of oral bioavailability has limited its use in long-term therapy, however; levodopa and dopa conjugates which are orally absorbed and metabolized to the active form are under investigation. The novel DA1 receptor agonist fenoldopam is claiming a role in the management of hypertension, heart failure, and the preservation of renal function. DA2 receptor agonists are also being evaluated as potential antihypertensive agents.
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