Vasopressin in cardiac arrest

Sheri L Koshman, Peter J Zed, Riyad B Abu-Laban
Annals of Pharmacotherapy 2005, 39 (10): 1687-92

OBJECTIVE: To review the efficacy and safety of vasopressin in cardiac arrest.

DATA SOURCES: MEDLINE, EMBASE, and PubMed were searched (all to June 2005) for full-text English-language publications describing trials in humans. Search terms were vasopressin, epinephrine, adrenaline, heart arrest, cardiac arrest, and clinical trial.

STUDY SELECTION AND DATA EXTRACTION: Prospective, randomized, controlled trials that evaluated efficacy or safety endpoints of vasopressin in the management of cardiac arrest were included. Efficacy outcomes included return of spontaneous circulation, successful resuscitation, survival to hospital admission, 24-hour survival, and survival to hospital discharge. Safety outcomes were as defined by each trial.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Three prospective trials were identified and included in this review. Vasopressin does not appear to offer any therapeutic advantage compared with epinephrine in the treatment of both in-hospital and out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, regardless of the presenting arrest rhythm. Although there is a suggestion that vasopressin may be effective in treatment of asystole, the evidence for this arises from a subgroup analysis that should be viewed as hypothesis generating. There are limited data describing the safety of vasopressin in cardiac arrest.

CONCLUSIONS: The current evidence for the use of vasopressin in cardiac arrest is indeterminate. Given the similarly equivocal evidence of efficacy for epinephrine, either drug could be considered the first-line agent in cardiac arrest. Placebo-controlled studies with appropriate statistical power are warranted to evaluate meaningful clinical outcomes, such as survival to hospital discharge. Further evaluation of the role of vasopressin in asystolic cardiac arrest and its use in combination with epinephrine is also justified.

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