The acute metabolic and hemodynamic effects of dopamine, dobutamine (both at 10 μg·kg-1·min), and isoproterenol (at 0.05 or 0.1 μg·kg-1·min) were determined in dogs following 20 minutes of normothermic global myocardial ischemia. The catecholamines were started 10 minutes before cardiopulmonary bypass (CBP) was discontinued and were continued for 1 hour after bypass. Regional myocardial and systemic blood flow distribution was measured by means of the radioactive microsphere technique. On bypass all catecholamines sharply increased heart rate, myocardial oxygen consumption, and left ventricular blood flow (p < 0.01). Because the hearts were unloaded, these data suggest that velocity of contraction is an important component of myocardial oxygen consumption. Although these drugs did not lower myocardial adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and creatine phosphate (CP) levels, the significant rise in oxygen consumption suggested that inotropic treatment on bypass may not be beneficial. Furthermore, renal blood flow was diminished in dobutamine-treated dogs (p < 0.01) and tended to decrease with isoproterenol infusion. No change was seen with dopamine infusion. After bypass, dobutamine treatment increased cardiac output (p < 0.01) and stroke volume (p = 0.017) with no change in heart rate, myocardial oxygen consumption, high-energy phosphate levels, and total or transmural distribution of left ventricular blood flow. Dopamine infusion did not change cardiac output but did increase oxygen consumption (p < 0.01). Isoproterenol showed a slight inotropic effect, but frequent ventricular arrhythmias were present during weaning from bypass. In all treatment groups, blood flow in the other systemic beds (cerebral, gastrointestinal, and renal) was similar to that in control dogs. These data suggest that dobutamine is the most efficient of the drugs tested for support of the heart following global myocardial ischemia but, when given during bypass, it appears to decrease renal blood flow.