What Is Dobutamine? - Uses & Side Effects

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Dobutamine is a drug used to treat heart failure. Read this lesson to learn how it works, which scenarios it would be used in, and what the possible side effects might be.

What is Dobutamine?

Steven is in surgery and his heart slows down, reducing the number of beats per minute. The doctor knows he has to restore Steven's heart rate soon or Steven will die, so the doctor administers dobutamine. Steven's heart regains normal functioning, and he survives a scary situation. So what is dobutamine? It is an injectable prescription drug used to treat heart failure in humans. This heart failure may be caused either by surgery or heart disease. It works by 'jump-starting' the heart, prompting it to pump with more force and strength, improving the function.

Dobutamine has a molecular formula is C18H23NO3•HC1. There are no brand names; this drug is only available by its generic name.

The molecular structure of dobutamine.
dobutamine structure


Dobutamine is not appropriate for all cases of heart failure, and a complete medical review should be done before it is used. For example, it is not recommended for those who have heart valve problems, adrenal gland tumors, high blood pressure, irregularities in the structure of the heart, an increased irregular heart beat (known as tachyarrhythmia) or those who are breastfeeding or pregnant.

Additionally, other medications may increase the side effects or interact with dobutamine. These include cimetidine and methyldopa (increase side effects), as well as catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibitors and droxidopa (interact with dobutamine).

Side Effects of Dobutamine Use

Not every one experiences side effects, though there are a few that are considered common after the use of dobutamine. These include headaches and nausea. This is surprisingly few common side effects, considering the usual lists accompanying prescription drugs. However, severe side effects, which prompt an immediate call to a physician, may include:

  • Allergic reactions, including rash, hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pressure in the chest

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