Critically ill patients with circulatory shock sometimes need rescue treatment with high doses of norepinephrine, a treatment that may be associated with a poor outcome because of excessive vasoconstriction.
To evaluate the outcome of treatment and its determinants in patients with circulatory shock who received high doses of norepinephrine in the intensive care unit and to identify indicators of futility for the treatment.
A retrospective study was done on 113 consecutive patients with circulatory shock who received 0.9 μg/kg per minute or greater of norepinephrine during at least 1 hour at any time in the intensive care unit. Data were extracted from the electronic patient data management system according to a predefined checklist.
A total of 39 patients survived for 28 days after admission to the intensive care unit. The variables independently associated with 28-day mortality in multivariable models included low urine flow, high lactate levels, high organ failure score, high prothrombin time, and need for epinephrine cotreatment. The reason, dose, and duration of norepinephrine administration did not have prognostic significance. Scores greater than 40 on the Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II, bicarbonate levels less than 9.0 mEq/L, or receipt of an epinephrine dose of 0.25 μg/kg per minute or greater were associated with 100% mortality.
Although the cause of shock and treatment with norepinephrine were not predictive of death when high doses of the drug were deemed necessary, rescue treatment with high-dose norepinephrine is futile in patients with severe disease and metabolic acidemia.