UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Pharmacology & Therapeutics

Title: Vasopressors in Cardiac Arrest: Where Do We Stand in 2012?

Keywords: vasopressor, cardiac arrest, epinephrine, vasopression (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/30/2012 by Bryan Hayes, PharmD (Emailed: 8/4/2012) (Updated: 8/4/2012)
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A recent paper reviewed 53 articles to assess the utility of vasopressors in cardiac arrest. The authors aimed to determine if vasopressors improved ouctomes in this patient population. Here are their conclusions:

  1. Epinephrine is associated with improvement in short term survival outcomes as compared to placebo, but no long-term survival benefit has been demonstrated.
  2. Vasopressin is equivalent for use as an initial vasopressor when compared to epinephrine during resuscitation from cardiac arrest.
  3. There is a short-term, but no long-term, survival benefit when using high dose vs. standard dose epinephrine during resuscitation from cardiac arrest.
  4. There are no alternative vasopressors that provide a long-term survival benefit when compared to epinephrine.

Although these conclusions don't support the use of vasopressors in cardiac arrest, we should not abandon these therapies. Most of the trials were completed before wide-spread recognition of the post-cardiac arrest syndrome, implementation of therapeutic hypothermia protocols, and early cardiac catheterization.


Larabee TM, Liu KY, Campbell JA, et al. Vasopressors in cardiac arrest: a systematic review. Resuscitation. 2012;83(8):932-9.

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