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The Difference Between Dobutamine & Dopamine

author image Joe Sharg
Joe Sharg holds a Master of Public Health degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. His first published article was in the "Journal of Neuro-Oncology" in 1999. Since then, his work has been featured in numerous medical journals, on CNN and in "The New York Times" and "USA Today."
The Difference Between Dobutamine & Dopamine
A doctor is talking to a woman. Photo Credit: Alexander Raths/iStock/Getty Images

Dopamine and dobutamine are both substances that have important actions on our bodies. Both act at specific cell receptors and produce significant changes in those cells. Dobutamine is a drug that acts on the sympathetic nervous system. Physicians use it to treat heart failure and cardiogenic shock. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that our bodies produce in order to send signals between brain cells. While the two substances are vastly different, both are important.

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Medical use

Dobutamine is a synthetic compound with important medical uses. Physicians use it for critically ill patients with severe heart problems. While dopamine itself can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, physicians usually prescribe it in a precursor form called L-Dopa, which can penetrate the brain and treat Parkinsons disease.

Natural product

Dopamine is a natural product that the body produces to communicate between cells in the nervous system. Dobutamine, on the other hand, is produced synthetically for medical use.

Affected cells

Dobutamine acts on adrenergic receptors, mostly on cells in the heart or on blood vessels. It stimulates those cells and causes the muscle cells to contract. Dopamine attaches to receptors on cells in the central nervous system and leads to the transmission of electrical electrical signals between those cells.

End result

The result of dobutamine's action on the body is an increase in the action of muscle cells in the heart and blood vessels. Dobutamine makes those cells contract faster and with a greater force, creating a higher heart rate and blood pressure. Dopamine's action on the central nervous system causes changes in cognition, motivation, attention, and learning.

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