Broad Spectrum Vasopressors

A New Approach to the Initial Management of Septic Shock?

Lakhmir S. Chawla; Marlies Ostermann; Lui Forni; George F. Tidmarsh


Crit Care. 2019;23(124) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


The mainstay of hemodynamic treatment of septic shock is fluid resuscitation followed by vasopressors where fluids alone are insufficient to achieve target blood pressure. Norepinephrine, a catecholamine, is the first-line vasopressor used worldwide but given that all routinely used catecholamines target the same adrenergic receptors, many clinicians may add a non-catecholamine vasopressor where refractory hypotension due to septic shock is present. However, the timing of this additional intervention is variable. This decision is based on three key factors: availability, familiarity, and safety profile. In our opinion, further consideration should be potential vasopressor response because following appropriate volume resuscitation, the response to different vasopressor classes is neither uniform nor predictable. Critically ill patients who are non-responders to high-dose catecholamines have a dismal outcome. Similarly, patients have a variable response to non-catecholamine agents including vasopressin and angiotensin II: but where patients exhibit a blood pressure response the outcomes are improved over non-responders. This variable responsiveness to vasopressors is similar to the clinical approach of anti-microbial sensitivity. In this commentary, the authors propose the concept of "broad spectrum vasopressors" wherein patients with septic shock are started on multiple vasopressors with a different mechanism of action simultaneously while the vasopressor sensitivity is assessed. Once the vasopressor sensitivities are assessed, then the vasopressors are 'de-escalated' accordingly. We believe that this concept may offer a new approach to the treatment of septic shock.