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Understanding Vasoactive Medications: Focus on Pharmacology and Effective Titration

Allen, John M. PharmD, BCPS

doi: 10.1097/NAN.0000000000000022

In the care of the critically ill patient, the use of vasoactive substances such as vasopressors and inotropes can be a potentially lifesaving intervention. An understanding of the pathophysiology of the various types of shock and pharmacology of the pharmacological agents used in the treatment of shock is necessary for intensive care unit clinicians to make appropriate decisions regarding when vasopressors or inotropes are indicated and assess their effectiveness. This review article will provide background on the different types of shock, compare and contrast the commonly used vasoactive substances in critically ill patients, discuss titration strategies for these agents, and review management of extravasation of these agents.

Department of Pharmacotherapeutics and Clinical Research, University of South Florida College of Pharmacy; and Department of Internal Medicine, University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, Tampa, FL.

John M. Allen, PharmD, BCPS, is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida College of Pharmacy. Dr. Allen also holds joint appointment as an assistant professor within the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine.

Corresponding Author: John M. Allen, PharmD, BCPS, 12901 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., MDC 30, Tampa, FL 33612 (

The author of this article has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

© Copyright 2014 by Infusion Nurses Society