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Vasopressors in critical illness 

Vasopressors in critical illness
Vasopressors in critical illness

Daniel De Backer

and Patrick Biston

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date: 21 May 2022

Vasopressors are used in various shock states to correct hypotension, aiming at restoring or improving organ and tissue perfusion. Vasopressor therapy may be associated with excessive vasoconstriction, but also metabolic and other side-effects. Hence, the ideal target for arterial pressure remains undetermined. Adrenergic agents remain the most commonly used vasopressor agents. Adrenergic agents increase arterial pressure through stimulation of alpha-adrenergic receptors. The effects of the different adrenergic agents differ mostly due to variable associated beta-adrenergic effects. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are strong and equipotent vasopressor agents. Their impact on outcome is as yet unanswered, but there is no sign that epinephrine might be associated with better outcomes. Accordingly, norepinephrine is the adrenergic agent of choice, especially in patients with cardiogenic shock. Vasopressin is a non-adrenergic vasopressor acting via V1 receptor stimulation, with weak vasopressor effects in normal conditions, but markedly increased vascular tone in shock states, especially in septic shock. Splanchnic vasoconstriction may occur. Arginine vasopressin at low doses appears to be a promising alternative to adrenergic agents, but its exact place is not yet well defined.

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