Effect of Reduced Exposure to Vasopressors on 90-Day Mortality in Older Critically Ill Patients With Vasodilatory Hypotension: A Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA. 2020 Mar 10;323(10):938-949. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.0930.


Importance: Vasopressors are commonly administered to intensive care unit (ICU) patients to raise blood pressure. Balancing risks and benefits of vasopressors is a challenge, particularly in older patients.

Objective: To determine whether reducing exposure to vasopressors through permissive hypotension (mean arterial pressure [MAP] target, 60-65 mm Hg) reduces mortality at 90 days in ICU patients aged 65 years or older with vasodilatory hypotension.

Design, setting, and participants: A multicenter, pragmatic, randomized clinical trial was conducted in 65 ICUs in the United Kingdom and included 2600 randomized patients aged 65 years or older with vasodilatory hypotension (assessed by treating clinician). The study was conducted from July 2017 to March 2019, and follow-up was completed in August 2019.

Interventions: Patients were randomized 1:1 to vasopressors guided either by MAP target (60-65 mm Hg, permissive hypotension) (n = 1291) or according to usual care (at the discretion of treating clinicians) (n = 1307).

Main outcome and measures: The primary clinical outcome was all-cause mortality at 90 days.

Results: Of 2600 randomized patients, after removal of those who declined or had withdrawn consent, 2463 (95%) were included in the analysis of the primary outcome (mean [SD] age 75 years [7 years]; 1387 [57%] men). Patients randomized to the permissive hypotension group had lower exposure to vasopressors compared with those in the usual care group (median duration 33 hours vs 38 hours; difference in medians, -5.0; 95% CI, -7.8 to -2.2 hours; total dose in norepinephrine equivalents median, 17.7 mg vs 26.4 mg; difference in medians, -8.7 mg; 95% CI, -12.8 to -4.6 mg). At 90 days, 500 of 1221 (41.0%) in the permissive hypotension compared with 544 of 1242 (43.8%) in the usual care group had died (absolute risk difference, -2.85%; 95% CI, -6.75 to 1.05; P = .15) (unadjusted relative risk, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.85-1.03). When adjusted for prespecified baseline variables, the odds ratio for 90-day mortality was 0.82 (95% CI, 0.68 to 0.98). Serious adverse events were reported for 79 patients (6.2%) in the permissive care group and 75 patients (5.8%) in the usual care group. The most common serious adverse events were acute renal failure (41 [3.2%] vs 33 [2.5%]) and supraventricular cardiac arrhythmia (12 [0.9%] vs 13 [1.0%]).

Conclusions and relevance: Among patients 65 years or older receiving vasopressors for vasodilatory hypotension, permissive hypotension compared with usual care did not result in a statistically significant reduction in mortality at 90 days. However, the confidence interval around the point estimate for the primary outcome should be considered when interpreting the clinical importance of the study.

Trial registration: isrctn.org Identifier: ISRCTN10580502.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / etiology
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atrial Premature Complexes / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Hypotension / complications
  • Hypotension / drug therapy*
  • Hypotension / mortality
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / adverse effects


  • Vasoconstrictor Agents

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN10580502