Liberal vs. conservative vasopressor use to maintain mean arterial blood pressure during resuscitation of septic shock: an observational study

Intensive Care Med. 2008 Jan;34(1):157-62. doi: 10.1007/s00134-007-0862-1. Epub 2007 Oct 9.


Objective: The optimal role of vasopressor therapy in septic shock is not known. We hypothesized that the variability in the use of vasopressors to treat hypotension is associated with subsequent organ failures.

Design: Retrospective observational single-center cohort study.

Setting: Tertiary care hospital.

Patients and participants: Consecutive patients with septic shock.

Measurement and results: Ninety-five patients were enrolled. Serial blood pressure recordings and vasopressor use were collected during the first 12h of septic shock. Median duration of hypotension that was not treated with vasopressors was 1.37h (interquartile range [IQR] 0.62-2.66). Based on the observed variability, we evaluated liberal (duration of untreated hypotension < median) vs. conservative (duration of untreated hypotensionn > median) vasopressor therapy. Compared with patients who received conservative vasopressor therapy, patients treated liberally had similar baseline organ impairment [median Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score 8 vs. 8, p = 0.438] were more likely to be younger (median age 70 vs. 77 years, p = 0.049), to require ventilator support (78 vs. 49%, p < 0.001), and to have progression of organ failures after 24h (59 vs. 37%, p = 0.032). When adjusted for age and mechanical ventilation, early therapy aimed at achieving global tissue perfusion [odds ratio (OR) 0.33, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.11-0.88), and early adequate antibiotic therapy (OR 0.27, 95% CI 0.09-0.76), but not liberal vasopressor use (OR 2.13, 95% CI 0.80-5.84), prevented progression of organ failures.

Conclusions: In our retrospective study, early adequate antibiotics and achieving adequate global perfusion, but not liberal vasopressor therapy, were associated with improved organ failures after septic shock. Clinical trials which compare conservative vs. liberal vasopressor therapy are warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observation
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Resuscitation*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Shock, Septic*
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / pharmacology
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / therapeutic use


  • Vasoconstrictor Agents