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Fenoldopam, a dopamine-1 (D1) agonist, was administered by a 6-h intravenous infusion to patients with refractory hypertension [diastolic blood pressure (DBP) >115 mmHg while on triple therapy] in order to achieve a fall in DBP of 30 mmHg. The evolution of blood pressure, heart rate, glomerular filtration rate (GFR), renal plasma flow (RPF), urine volume, renal excretion of sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, uric acid, phosphate, plasma renin activity (PRA), aldosterone and prolactin were evaluated. A significant fall in blood pressure (P<0.01) accompanied by an increase in heart rate (P<0.01) was attained after 30 min. GFR and RPF increased significantly (P<0.01) but the filtration fraction fell. Urine volume and urinary output of sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, uric acid and phosphate increased markedly (P<0.01). Meanwhile, plasma potassium fell (P<0.01) and the hormonal parameters showed no significant change. We concluded that in refractory hypertension fenoldopam has potent renal and systemic vasodilatory properties through which blood pressure falls. The hypotensive effect of fenoldopam is also facilitated by its marked diuretic and natriuretic properties. The absence of variations of plasma prolactin confirm the D1 selectivity of fenoldopam and the lack of increase in PRA indicates that fenoldopam blocks the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.