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What Are Dopamine Drips?

Dopamine drips are intravenously inserted into a patient's arm or hand.
Gravity gradually draws the dopamine solution from a bag hung above the patient.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2014
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Dopamine drips are intravenous deliveries of dopamine, a neurotransmitter naturally produced in the body that can be necessary for a hemodynamically unstable patient, a person with abnormally low blood pressure. A medical professional will order a drip if it appears necessary, directing a nurse to monitor the patient and adjust the drip as required. The adjustments are an important component of treatment, as patients may respond in different ways to the medication, and the nurse must titrate the delivery up and down to keep the patient safe and comfortable.

Healthcare professionals typically recommend dopamine drips for patients at risk of shock caused by low blood pressure. These can include patients with a recent history of open heart surgery, heart attacks, or renal failure. The starting dosage depends on the patient's weight. A nurse dilutes medication in an intravenous bag with sterile saline or another infusion solution, and sets it up to drip at a steady rate into the patient's intravenous line.

The purpose of the dopamine is to increase blood flow to the internal organs and raise blood pressure. A nurse may also administer medications to increase blood volume, as this will make the medication more effective. As the patient starts to respond, the symptoms of low blood pressure should resolve. Drips are most safe and effective in patients who are not in the end stages of disease, as their bodies will be able to utilize the drug effectively.

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Side effects of dopamine drips can include blood pressure swings, nausea, and vomiting. Patients should report any ill symptoms to a healthcare professional so he or she can take appropriate action to address the situation. For patients who cannot communicate, nurses rely on feedback from vitals checks and other visual signs. Patients in distress may be more restless and may display other signs, such as trouble breathing or repeated coughing.

This intravenous medication is very potent, and it must be diluted before administration and the dose kept within a safe range. Hospitals usually set policies for its use to increase patient safety and make sure that the medication is used safely and effectively. These procedures can include outlines of safe dosage ranges, which nurses should not exceed, as well as requirements to log the dilution process to confirm that the medication has been safely prepared for a patient. In the event of a medical error, the hospital will conduct an audit to find out why it happened and develop policies for preventing future errors of a similar nature.

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anon310341
Post 4

Ambulance medicine isn't a good guide for what may or should be done in hospital. A Dopamine drip is hard to judge on effects and takes a while before the results can be judged properly.

Since the purpose of an ambulance is to get the patient to the hospital fast, as fast as possible. I am surprised that you ever administered it and would guess it was only when the patient had been on one previously. Am I right?

Saraq90
Post 3

@geekish - You were right in thinking that dopamine has something to do with depression, but dopamine is not actually given as a medication rather the thought is that the medications affects the taker's dopamine.

An understandable mistake, especially after learning in this article that dopamine is given to patients (although as the article states a dopamine drip is for someone with abnormally low blood pressure).

geekish
Post 2

@medicchristy - Wow - you only gave a dopamine drip about 5 times in ten years?! And from what you were noting in your comment it is hard enough to do, without the fact that it is something that you do not receive much on the job experience with!

I was intrigued by the dopamine drip because when I think of dopamine, I think of depression... isn't dopamine what is given to people with depression?

And although a dopamine drip is administered much differently from medication, is dopamine in pill form difficult to calculate the right amount for any given person just as it is difficult to calculate dopamine drips?

medicchristy
Post 1

When I worked as a paramedic, we had to administer many different medications. Dopamine was always one that was the most difficult to give. We would have to do dopamine drip calculations according to the patients' weight. Sometimes the patient would be unconscious and not be able to tell us so we would have to take a guess at it. We always had to call the ER doctor and get approval before giving dopamine.

Administering dopamine on an ambulance is not a very common thing to do because of the risks. There is not a doctor available if something goes wrong. I think I only gave dopamine about 5 times in ten years of working as a medic.

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