The effect of low dose (2, 4, and 8 micrograms/kg per min) dopamine infusion on blood pressure, heart rate and renal function was studied in 18 hypotensive, preterm infants with severe hyaline membrane disease (HMD). Significant dose-related effects found during dopamine infusion were systolic and diastolic blood pressure elevation and diuretic effect, while heart rate increase occurred only with 8 micrograms/kg per min of the drug. This indicates, that in the preterm neonate, dopamine at low doses has a pronounced effect on the alpha- and dopamine-receptors, while its beta-receptor stimulating activity is minimal. We demonstrated a significantly decreased metabolic clearance rate of dopamine in preterm infants. Thus, beside the differences in the vascular receptors' maturation, the decreased metabolic clearance rate should also be taken into account when explaining the cardiovascular and renal effects of low dose dopamine infusion in these babies. Dopamine was found to be useful in normalizing low arterial blood pressure, in improving impaired peripheral circulation, and in producing a marked diuresis in hypotensive preterm neonates with severe hyaline membrane disease.