Sodium Bicarbonate for Metabolic Acidosis in the ICU: Results of a Pilot Randomized Double-Blind Clinical Trial

Crit Care Med. 2023 Nov 1;51(11):e221-e233. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000005955. Epub 2023 Jun 9.


Objectives: To identify the best population, design of the intervention, and to assess between-group biochemical separation, in preparation for a future phase III trial.

Design: Investigator-initiated, parallel-group, pilot randomized double-blind trial.

Setting: Eight ICUs in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, with participants recruited from April 2021 to August 2022.

Patients: Thirty patients greater than or equal to 18 years, within 48 hours of admission to the ICU, receiving a vasopressor, and with metabolic acidosis (pH < 7.30, base excess [BE] < -4 mEq/L, and Pa co2 < 45 mm Hg).

Interventions: Sodium bicarbonate or placebo (5% dextrose).

Measurements and main result: The primary feasibility aim was to assess eligibility, recruitment rate, protocol compliance, and acid-base group separation. The primary clinical outcome was the number of hours alive and free of vasopressors on day 7. The recruitment rate and the enrollment-to-screening ratio were 1.9 patients per month and 0.13 patients, respectively. Time until BE correction (median difference, -45.86 [95% CI, -63.11 to -28.61] hr; p < 0.001) and pH correction (median difference, -10.69 [95% CI, -19.16 to -2.22] hr; p = 0.020) were shorter in the sodium bicarbonate group, and mean bicarbonate levels in the first 24 hours were higher (median difference, 6.50 [95% CI, 4.18 to 8.82] mmol/L; p < 0.001). Seven days after randomization, patients in the sodium bicarbonate and placebo group had a median of 132.2 (85.6-139.1) and 97.1 (69.3-132.4) hours alive and free of vasopressor, respectively (median difference, 35.07 [95% CI, -9.14 to 79.28]; p = 0.131). Recurrence of metabolic acidosis in the first 7 days of follow-up was lower in the sodium bicarbonate group (3 [20.0%] vs. 15 [100.0%]; p < 0.001). No adverse events were reported.

Conclusions: The findings confirm the feasibility of a larger phase III sodium bicarbonate trial; eligibility criteria may require modification to facilitate recruitment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis* / drug therapy
  • Australia
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sodium Bicarbonate* / therapeutic use


  • Sodium Bicarbonate