Vasopressin versus epinephrine for inhospital cardiac arrest: a randomised controlled trial

Lancet. 2001 Jul 14;358(9276):105-9. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(01)05328-4.


Background: Survival rates for cardiac arrest patients, both in and out of hospital, are poor. Results of a previous study suggest better outcomes for patients treated with vasopressin than for those given epinephrine, in the out-of-hospital setting. Our aim was to compare the effectiveness and safety of these drugs for the treatment of in-patient cardiac arrest.

Methods: We did a triple-blind randomised trial in the emergency departments, critical care units, and wards of three Canadian teaching hospitals. We assigned adults who had cardiac arrest and required drug therapy to receive one dose of vasopressin 40 U or epinephrine 1 mg intravenously, as the initial vasopressor. Patients who failed to respond to the study intervention were given epinephrine as a rescue medication. The primary outcomes were survival to hospital discharge, survival to 1 h, and neurological function. Preplanned subgroup assessments included patients with myocardial ischaemia or infarction, initial cardiac rhythm, and age.

Findings: We assigned 104 patients to vasopressin and 96 to epinephrine. For patients receiving vasopressin or epinephrine survival did not differ for hospital discharge (12 [12%] vs 13 [14%], respectively; p50.67; 95% CI for absolute increase in survival 211.8% to 7.8%) or for 1 h survival (40 [39%] vs 34 [35%]; p50.66; 210.9% to 17.0%); survivors had closely similar median mini-mental state examination scores (36 [range 19-38] vs 35 [20-40]; p50.75) and median cerebral performance category scores (1 vs 1).

Interpretation: We failed to detect any survival advantage for vasopressin over epinephrine. We cannot recommend the routine use of vasopressin for inhospital cardiac arrest patients, and disagree with American Heart Association guidelines, which recommend vasopressin as alternative therapy for cardiac arrest.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Epinephrine / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Heart Arrest / complications
  • Heart Arrest / drug therapy*
  • Heart Arrest / mortality
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Infarction / etiology
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Mesentery / blood supply
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Resuscitation / methods*
  • Safety
  • Survival Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vasopressins / therapeutic use*


  • Vasopressins
  • Epinephrine