Vasopressin for cardiac arrest: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Koko Aung, Thwe Htay
Archives of Internal Medicine 2005 January 10, 165 (1): 17-24

BACKGROUND: The current guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation recommend vasopressin as an alternative to epinephrine for the treatment of adult shock-refractory ventricular fibrillation. The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness of vasopressin in the treatment of cardiac arrest.

METHODS: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of 1519 patients with cardiac arrest from 5 randomized controlled trials that compared vasopressin and epinephrine. Two reviewers conducted a systematic search of electronic databases, complemented by hand searches, to identify randomized trials. Reviewers evaluated the quality of the trials, extracted data, and derived pooled estimates using a random-effects model.

RESULTS: There were no statistically significant differences between the vasopressin and epinephrine groups in failure of return of spontaneous circulation (risk ratio [RR], 0.81; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.58-1.12), death before hospital admission (RR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.38-1.39), death within 24 hours (RR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.38-1.43), death before hospital discharge (RR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.87-1.05), or combination of number of deaths and neurologically impaired survivors (RR, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.94-1.07). Subgroup analysis based on initial cardiac rhythm showed no statistically significant difference in the rate of death before hospital discharge between the vasopressin and epinephrine groups in any of the 3 subgroups: ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia (RR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.79-1.19), pulseless electrical activity (RR, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.95-1.10), or asystole (RR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.94-1.00).

CONCLUSIONS: There is no clear advantage of vasopressin over epinephrine in the treatment of cardiac arrest. Guidelines for Advanced Cardiac Life Support should not recommend vasopressin in resuscitation protocols until more solid human data on its superiority are available.

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