The effects of a single dose of ibopamine on renal haemodynamics, sodium excretion, blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) were investigated in 10 patients (aged 52-82 years) with severe congestive heart failure (CHF) who were in NYHA class IV. All patients used ACE inhibitors, digoxin and diuretics. After determining baseline values, ibopamine 100 mg was administered.Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and effective renal plasma flow (ERPF) were measured simultaneously using radio pharmaceuticals. An increase in GFR and ERPF was observed during 3 and 2 h, with a maximum of 15 and 11%, respectively. The ratio GFR/ERPF representing the filtration fraction (FF) was markedly elevated at baseline, 34%, and remained unchanged. No clinically significant increase of sodium excretion was found. No changes in blood pressure, heart rate, plasma renin activity (PRA) and aldosterone or norepinephrine were observed. We conclude that ibopamine increases both ERPF and GFR in patients with severe CHF, possibly as a consequence of both inotropic cardiac and specific renal effects with equal preglomerular and postglomerular vasodilation. The lack of the presumed fall in FF may be the consequence of the expected DA1-induced renal vasodilation, partially reversed by the alpha adrenergic properties of ibopamine for this dose. Ibopamine caused no clinically significant natriuresis in these salt-depleted patients. No changes in PRA, aldosterone and catecholamines were found.