Intravenous epinephrine in life-threatening asthma

Ann Emerg Med. 2003 May;41(5):706-11. doi: 10.1067/mem.2003.144.


Study objective: Intravenous epinephrine is a potentially vital therapy for patients with life-threatening asthma but is often avoided because of concerns about its safety. We evaluated the safety of intravenous epinephrine in a series of adults with life-threatening asthma.

Methods: We performed an explicit retrospective chart review on a case series of 27 emergency department patients aged 19 to 58 years (mean 25 years) who were treated with intravenous epinephrine for a life-threatening exacerbation of asthma between 1989 and 1997. Explicit criteria for adverse effects, including cardiac arrhythmia or ischemia, hypotension or hypertension, neurologic injury, and death, were defined before chart review.

Results: No patient had an arrhythmia other than sinus tachycardia, and there were no cases of cardiac ischemia, hypotension, neurologic deficit, or death.

Conclusion: Intravenous epinephrine was safe in this small series of younger adults with acute life-threatening asthma. A prospective trial of its use to better define an efficacy and risk-benefit relationship is justified.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bronchodilator Agents / adverse effects
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Emergencies
  • Epinephrine / administration & dosage
  • Epinephrine / adverse effects
  • Epinephrine / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Epinephrine