UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Cardiology

Title: phenylephrine

Keywords: phenylephrine (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/17/2011 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 1/18/2022)
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With recent national shortages of norepinephrine, our typical go-to drug in sepsis, it's become important for us all to familiarize ourselves with alternative pressors in this setting. Phenylephrine is a commonly chosen alternative.

Phenylephrine is a potent alpha-agonist associated with peripheral vasoconstriction. It has no beta effects so it is not associated with tachydysrhythmias. On the other hand, it is associated with reflex bradycardia which can be treated or prevented with atropine (although there are no specific recommendations to routinely administer atropine prophylactically). Phenylephrine may take 10 minutes to demonstrate an effect, and its duration is approximately 15 minutes. It should be used cautiously in patients with underlying cardiac disease because of the vasoconstrictive effect, and it should be avoided in patients with narrow-angle closure glaucoma.

Extravasation can cause tissue necrosis and should be treated with phentolamine.