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We prospectively studied the effects of renal protection intervention in 17 patients with preoperative abnormal renal function (plasma creatinine >1.5 mg/dL) scheduled for elective coronary surgery. Patients were randomized to either dopamine 2.0 micro g [center dot] kg-1 [center dot] min-1 (Group 1, n = 10) or perfusion pressure >70 mm Hg during cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) (Group 2, n = 7). Glomerular filtration rate and effective renal plasma flow were measured with inulin and125 I-hippuran clearances before the induction of anesthesia, after sternotomy and before CPB, during hypo-and normothermic CPB, after sternal closure, and 1 h postoperatively. Plasma and urine electrolytes were measured, and free water, osmolar, and creatinine clearances, as well as fractional excretion of sodium and potassium, were calculated before and after surgery. Significant differences between groups were found before CPB for glomerular filtration rate (higher in Group 1), urine output (2.0 vs 0.29 mL/min in Group 1 versus Group 2), urinary creatinine (66 vs 175 mg/dL), urinary osmolarity (370 vs 627 mOsm/L), osmolar clearance (2.1 vs 0.7 mL/min), and urinary potassium (33 vs 71 mEq/L). There were no differences between groups during hypo- and normothermic CPB. After CPB, the only difference was a slightly higher urinary creatinine in Group 2. Renal plasma flow was lower than normal in all patients before the induction of anesthesia. A nonsignificant trend toward increased flow was seen during hypothermic CPB. Filtration fraction was high before CPB, which suggests efferent arteriolar vasoconstriction, descending toward normal during and after CPB. The same pattern of changes was present in both groups. In conclusion, there were no clinically relevant differences between the two treatment modalities during and after CPB. However, significant differences were observed before CPB, when dopamine seemed to partially revert renal vasoconstriction. Implications: Two protective interventions were compared in patients undergoing heart surgery to prevent deterioration of renal function; these were dopamine infusion throughout the operation and phenylephrine infusion during cardiopulmonary bypass. We found clinically relevant differences only during surgery before cardiopulmonary bypass.