Adrenergic support in septic shock: a critical review

Pedro Póvoa, António H Carneiro
Hospital Practice (Minneapolis) 2010, 38 (1): 62-73
The definition of septic shock includes sepsis-induced hypotension despite adequate fluid resuscitation, along with the presence of organ perfusion abnormalities, and ultimately cell dysfunction. To restore adequate organ perfusion and cell homeostasis, cardiac output should be restored with volume infusion plus vasopressor agents as indicated. Appropriate arterial pressure for each individual patient and proper arterial oxygen content are key elements to restoring perfusion. Tissue perfusion can be monitored by markers of organ and mitochondrial function, namely urine output, level of consciousness, peripheral skin perfusion, central or mixed venous oxygen saturation, and lactate. The hemodynamic effects of the different vasopressor agents depend on the relative affinity to adrenergic receptors. Those with predominant alpha-agonist activity produce more vasoconstriction (inoconstrictors) while those with predominant beta-agonist stimulation increase cardiac performance (inodilators). The debate about whether one vasopressor agent is superior to another is still ongoing. The Surviving Sepsis Campaign guidelines refer to either norepinephrine or dopamine as the first-choice vasopressor agent to correct hypotension in septic shock. However, recent data from observational and controlled trials have challenged these recommendations concerning different adrenergic agents. As a result, our view on the prescription of vasopressors has changed from a probably oversimplified "one-size-fits-all" approach to a multimodal approach in vasopressor selection.


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