Safety and efficacy of intravenous labetalol for hypertensive crisis in infants and small children

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2011 Jan;12(1):28-32. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0b013e3181e328d8.


Objective: To determine the efficacy and safety of labetalol for hypertensive crisis in children ≤ 24 months of age.

Design: Retrospective chart review. Statistical analysis utilized analysis of variance for continuous data, chi-square tests for nominal data, and linear regression.

Setting: A 737-bed pediatric teaching institution.

Patients: Twenty-seven patients ≤ 24 months of age were treated with 37 intravenous infusions of labetalol, nicardipine, or nitroprusside for hypertensive crisis or hypertensive urgency.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: The primary end point consisted of time to 20% reduction in systolic blood pressure. Primary safety end points measured the prevalence of deleterious effects of labetalol. Continuous infusion of labetalol reduced mean systolic blood pressure by at least 20% in < 8 hrs. This effect was similar to nicardipine and nitroprusside infusions. The reported side effects were similar in each group. Patients receiving labetalol and presenting with ischemic or traumatic brain injury were likely to develop hypotension requiring infusion discontinuation.

Conclusions: Continuous intravenous labetalol infusion is efficacious for treatment of hypertensive crisis in children ≤ 24 months of age. Aside from patients presenting with ischemic or traumatic brain injury, labetalol was safe to use in this population for hypertensive emergencies and had a satisfactory adverse effect profile. Labetalol may reach dose saturation at a much lower dose in young children in comparison to adults. Clinicians should use caution when initiating labetalol infusions in young patients with brain injury.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antihypertensive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antihypertensive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Infant
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Labetalol / administration & dosage
  • Labetalol / adverse effects
  • Labetalol / therapeutic use*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Nicardipine / therapeutic use
  • Nitroprusside / therapeutic use
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Nitroprusside
  • Nicardipine
  • Labetalol