We infused dobutamine into the left main coronary artery of 24 patients with severe congestive heart failure (CHF) and 8 normal subjects without hemodynamic dysfunction. The maximal +dP/dt response to intracoronary (IC) dobutamine in CHF patients was only 37% of that in normals. This decrease in maximal response was not associated with a rightshift in the EC50 for dobutamine's effect on +dP/dt, or a decrease in the affinity of myocardial beta adrenergic receptors for dobutamine determined in vitro. In nine of the CHF patients, IC dobutamine infusion was followed by IC infusion of the phosphodiesterase inhibitor milrinone, and subsequently, by a second IC infusion of dobutamine. After IC milrinone, the increase in +dP/dt caused by IC dobutamine (74 +/- 10%) was significantly greater than that caused by the first infusion of dobutamine (52 +/- 11%; P less than 0.003) or milrinone (42 +/- 6%; P less than 0.001). Resting plasma norepinephrine was markedly elevated in CHF patients (837 +/- 208 ng/liter), but not in normal subjects (142 +/- 32 ng/liter); and the increase in +dP/dt caused by IC dobutamine was inversely related to resting plasma norepinephrine levels (r = -0.653; P less than 0.001). IC dobutamine caused a dose-related decrease in plasma norepinephrine (maximal effect, -160 +/- 31 ng/liter; P less than 0.001). Thus, (a) the maximal inotropic response to dobutamine is markedly depressed in patients with severe CHF, and is significantly greater after pretreatment with the phosphodiesterase inhibitor milrinone; (b) the impairment in inotropic response to dobutamine is inversely related to circulating norepinephrine levels; and (c) myocardial stimulation by dobutamine results in withdrawal of sympathetic tone.
W S Colucci, A R Denniss, G F Leatherman, R J Quigg, P L Ludmer, J D Marsh, D F Gauthier