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.
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.