Epinephrine is frequently used as an inotropic and vasopressor agent in critically ill patients requiring hemodynamic support. Data from observational trials suggested that epinephrine use is associated with a worse outcome as compared with other adrenergic and nonadrenergic vasoactive drugs. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to investigate the effect of epinephrine administration on outcome of critically ill patients.
PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane central register were searched by two independent investigators up to March 2019.
Inclusion criteria were: administration of epinephrine as IV continuous infusion, patients admitted to an ICU or undergoing major surgery, and randomized controlled trials. Studies on epinephrine administration as bolus (e.g., during cardiopulmonary resuscitation), were excluded. The primary outcome was mortality at the longest follow-up available.
Two independent investigators examined and extracted data from eligible trials.
A total of 5,249 studies were assessed, with a total of 12 studies (1,227 patients) finally included in the meta-analysis. The majority of the trials were performed in the setting of septic shock
, and the most frequent comparator was a combination of norepinephrine plus dobutamine. We found no difference in all-cause mortality at the longest follow-up available (197/579 [34.0%] in the epinephrine group vs 219/648 [33.8%] in the control group; risk ratio = 0.95; 95% CI, 0.82–1.10; p
= 0.49; I2
= 0%). No differences in the need for renal replacement therapy, occurrence rate of myocardial ischemia, occurrence rate of arrhythmias, and length of ICU stay were observed.
Current randomized evidence showed that continuous IV administration of epinephrine as inotropic/vasopressor agent is not associated with a worse outcome in critically ill patients.