Passive antipyretic therapy is not as effective as invasive hypothermia for maintaining normothermia after cardiac arrest

Am J Emerg Med. 2021 Dec;50:202-206. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2021.06.069. Epub 2021 Jul 2.


Aim of the study: Targeted temperature management is a class I indication in comatose patients after a cardiac arrest. While the literature has primarily focused on innovative methods to achieve target temperatures, pharmacologic therapy has received little attention. We sought to examine whether pharmacologic therapy using antipyretics is effective in maintaining normothermia in post cardiac arrest patients.

Materials and methods: Patients ≥18 years who were resuscitated after an in-hospital or out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and admitted at our institution from January 2012 to September 2015 were retrospectively included. Patients were divided into groups based on the method of temperature control that was utilized. The primary outcome was temperature control <38 °C during the first 48 h after the cardiac arrest.

Results: 671 patients were identified in Group 1 (no hypothermia), 647 in Group 2 (antipyretics), 44 in Group 3 (invasive hypothermia), and 51 in Group 4 (invasive hypothermia and antipyretics). Mean patient age was 59 (SD ±15.7) years with 40.6% being female. Using Group 1 as the control arm, 57.7% of patients maintained target temperature with antipyretics alone (p < 0.001), compared to 69.3% in the control group and 82.1% in the combined hypothermia groups 3&4 (p = 0.01). Patients receiving both invasive hypothermia and antipyretics (Group 4), had the greatest mean temperature decrease of 5.2 °C.

Conclusions: Among patients undergoing targeted temperature management, relying solely on as needed use of antipyretics is not sufficient to maintain temperatures <38 °C. However, antipyretics could be used as an initial strategy if given regularly and/or in conjunction with more aggressive cooling techniques.

Keywords: Antipyretics; Cardiac arrest; Hypothermia; Target temperature management.

MeSH terms

  • Antipyretics / administration & dosage*
  • Coma
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia, Induced*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest / therapy*


  • Antipyretics