Difference Between the Measured and Ordered Dose of Catecholamine Infusions

Ann Pharmacother. 1995 Nov;29(11):1095-100. doi: 10.1177/106002809502901104.


Objective: To measure the actual concentrations of dopamine, dobutamine, and epinephrine in infusates prepared for patients, and to compare these concentrations with those of the dopamine HCl, dobutamine, and epinephrine HCl infusates that had been prescribed to evaluate drug preparation accuracy.

Design: Prospective, unblind study.

Setting: Pediatric intensive care unit in a tertiary-care teaching hospital.

Participants: All dopamine, dobutamine, and epinephrine infusions ordered for patients during the 2-month study period were eligible for inclusion in the study.

Measurements: Daily samples of dopamine, dobutamine, and epinephrine infusates that were prepared for 41 pediatric patients were obtained; the infusate catecholamine concentration was measured by HPLC and compared with the ordered concentration. The concentration than was multiplied by the rate of infusion to determine the catecholamine dose.

Main results: There were significant differences between the measured doses of dopamine, dobutamine, and epinephrine and the dopamine HCl, dobutamine, and epinephrine HCl doses (p = 0.0001, p = 0.039, and p = 0.0009, respectively) that had been ordered because of preparation inaccuracies. Failure to account for the HCl salt in the stock drug accounted for some, but not all, of the inaccuracy of the dopamine HCl and epinephrine HCl infusates. There was a wide interday variability in the measured catecholamine dosage in patients receiving the same dose for 3 days or more.

Conclusions: There are daily fluctuations in the preparation of dopamine, dobutamine, and epinephrine infusates that could alter the amount of drug actually delivered to critically ill patients and potentially contribute to their hemodynamic instability.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dobutamine / administration & dosage*
  • Dobutamine / analysis
  • Dopamine / administration & dosage*
  • Dopamine / analysis
  • Drug Stability
  • Epinephrine / administration & dosage*
  • Epinephrine / analysis
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Medication Errors*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Dobutamine
  • Dopamine
  • Epinephrine