Should etomidate be the induction agent of choice for rapid sequence intubation in the emergency department?

A J Oglesby
Emergency Medicine Journal: EMJ 2004, 21 (6): 655-9
The ideal induction agent for emergency airway management should be rapidly acting, permit optimum intubating conditions, and be devoid of significant side effects. This review was performed to ascertain whether etomidate should be the induction agent of choice for rapid sequence intubation (RSI) in the emergency department, specifically examining its pharmacology, haemodynamic profile, and adrenocortical effects. A search of Medline (1966-2002), Embase (1980-2002), the Cochrane controlled trials register, and CINAHL was performed. In addition, the major emergency medicine and anaesthesia journals were hand searched for relevant material. Altogether 144 papers were identified of which 16 were relevant. Most studies were observational studies or retrospective reviews with only one double blind randomised controlled trial and one un-blinded randomised controlled trial. Appraisal of the available evidence suggests that etomidate is an effective induction agent for emergency department RSI; it has a rapid onset of anaesthesia and results in haemodynamic stability, even in hypovolaemic patients or those with limited cardiac reserve. Important questions regarding the medium to long term effects on adrenocortical function (even after a single dose) remain unanswered.

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