Peripheral vasodilation is considered an important factor in the pathophysiology of the hepatorenal syndrome (HRS). Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the therapeutic potential of the vasoconstrictor ornipressin plus dopamine in the treatment of the most severe form of HRS, namely HRS type 1. Seven cirrhotic patients (creatinine clearance 15 +/- 1 mL/min, UNaV 7 +/- 2 mmol/24 h) with HRS type 1 were included in the study after normalization of central venous pressure with intravenous albumin and low-dose dopamine had failed to prevent further deterioration of renal function. Ornipressin was given continuously (intravenous 6 IU/h) in combination with dopamine (2-3 microgram/kg/min) until creatinine clearance had increased to above 40 mL/min or adverse events prevented further treatment. HRS was reverted in 4 of 7 patients after 5 to 27 days (creatinine clearance 51 +/- 4 mL/min, UNaV 47 +/- 11 mmol/24 h) of treatment. Withdrawal was necessary in 1 patient after 15 days because of intestinal ischemia. Treatment failure was observed in 2 of 7 patients (creatinine clearance 19 +/- 10 mL/min, UNaV 8 +/- 3 mmol/24 h). Two of 4 responders had recidivant HRS 2 and 8 months after initial therapy, respectively. HRS in 1 of these patients was reverted with 18 days of ornipressin retreatment. The other patient had to be withdrawn from ornipressin after 2 hours because of ventricular tachyarrhythmia. Altogether, 3 of 7 patients survived HRS type 1, 1 after successful ornipressin therapy and liver transplantation, 1 with 2 successful courses of ornipressin, and 1 with liver transplantation after ornipressin treatment had failed. Thus, ornipressin plus dopamine can be a useful therapeutic option in patients with HRS type 1, especially as bridge to liver transplantation.