Etomidate Use Is Associated With Less Hypotension Than Ketamine for Emergency Department Sepsis Intubations: A NEAR Cohort Study

Acad Emerg Med. 2020 Nov;27(11):1140-1149. doi: 10.1111/acem.14070. Epub 2020 Jul 20.


Objective: The objectives of this study were 1) to describe the current use of etomidate and other induction agents in patients with sepsis and 2) to compare adverse events between etomidate and ketamine in sepsis.

Methods: This was an observational cohort study of the prospective National Emergency Airway Registry (NEAR) data set. Descriptive statistics were used to report the distribution of induction agents used in patients with sepsis. Adverse events were compared using bivariate analysis, and a sensitivity analysis was conducted using a propensity score-adjusted analysis of etomidate versus ketamine.

Results: A total of 531 patients were intubated for sepsis, and the majority (71%) were intubated with etomidate as the initial induction agent. Etomidate was less frequently used in sepsis patients than nonsepsis patients (71% vs. 85%, odds ratio [OR] = 0.4, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.4 to 0.5). Sepsis patients had a greater risk of adverse events, and vasopressor therapy was required for 25% of patients after intubation. Postprocedure hypotension was higher between those intubated for sepsis with ketamine versus etomidate (74% vs. 50%, OR = 2.9, 95% CI = 1.9 to 4.5). After confounding by indication in the propensity score-adjusted analysis was accounted for, ketamine was associated with more postprocedure hypotension (OR = 2.7, 95% CI = 1.1 to 6.7). No difference in emergency department deaths was observed.

Conclusions: Etomidate is used less frequently in sepsis patients than nonsepsis patients, with ketamine being the most frequently used alternative. Ketamine was associated with more postprocedural hypotension than etomidate. Future clinical trials are needed to determine the optimal induction agent in patients with sepsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Etomidate* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Hypotension* / chemically induced
  • Intubation, Intratracheal
  • Ketamine* / adverse effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • Sepsis* / drug therapy


  • Ketamine
  • Etomidate