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What is Dobutamine?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 August 2018
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Dobutamine is a medication used in certain emergencies and to conduct echocardiogram stress tests, when a person cannot exercise adequately to elevate heart rate and blood pressure. It is not the type of medication that people take at home and normally is only administered by a physician or other health professional in a clinical setting. It’s also called a sympathomimetic and an inotropic. The first term means that the drug mimics what might ordinarily happen with the heart under certain conditions, and the second term describes that fact that dobutamine can strengthen heart contractions.

In hospital settings when a person is in extreme congestive heart failure, dobutamine might be used to stimulate the heart to beat with more force, which may temporarily help the body recover from the symptoms of heart failure. It’s also indicated for use if people experience septic shock and the heart nearly or completely stops functioning. However, most people who have any familiarity with this medication probably do because of having a dobutamine echocardiogram or stress test. This is where the heart is stimulated to behave as though the body has exercised, so that function of the heart can be evaluated and conditions might be diagnosed or ruled out through this evaluation.

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Probably what is most important about this last use is that the medication can interact with a variety of drugs including lots of heart medications, which people might already be taking if they need a stress echo. Since this tendency exist, people should carefully follow any guidelines they’re given regarding how this test is taken. These can include things like abstaining from food, water, and smoking for approximately four hours prior to testing, and doctors might also ask that patients not use regularly prescribed medication for several days before testing. Following all instructions prior to the stress test is important to eliminate potential dangerous reactions or uncertain results that require re-testing.

It would be fair to state that many people who have a medication stress test find the effects of this drug to be somewhat disconcerting and/or uncomfortable. While it is administered, the skin may feel very hot, the heart seems to beat quickly and with great force, and people might find themselves out of breath. It’s very much like having exercised, but symptoms gradually develop when people exert or exercise. With dobutamine, symptoms occur extremely suddenly. Most stress tests are fortunately fairly short in duration and symptoms of the medication tend to quickly cease as soon as the drug is discontinued.

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