Cumulative epinephrine dose during cardiac arrest and neurologic outcome after extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Am J Emerg Med. 2024 Jun:80:61-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2024.03.013. Epub 2024 Mar 15.


Background: Epinephrine is recommended without an apparent ceiling dosage during cardiac arrest. However, excessive alpha- and beta-adrenergic stimulation may contribute to unnecessarily high aortic afterload, promote post-arrest myocardial dysfunction, and result in cerebral microvascular insufficiency in patients receiving extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (ECPR).

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of adults (≥ 18 years) who received ECPR at large academic ECMO center from 2018 to 2022. Patients were grouped based on the amount of epinephrine given during cardiac arrest into low (≤ 3 mg) and high (> 3 mg) groups. The primary endpoint was neurologic outcome at hospital discharge, defined by cerebral performance category (CPC). Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the relationship between cumulative epinephrine dosage during arrest and neurologic outcome.

Results: Among 51 included ECPR cases, the median age of patients was 60 years, and 55% were male. The mean cumulative epinephrine dose administered during arrest was 6.2 mg but ranged from 0 to 24 mg. There were 18 patients in the low-dose (≤ 3 mg) and 25 patients in the high-dose (> 3 mg) epinephrine groups. Favorable neurologic outcome at discharge was significantly greater in the low-dose (55%) compared to the high-dose (24%) group (p = 0.025). After adjusting for age, those who received higher doses of epinephrine during the arrest were more likely to have unfavorable neurologic outcomes at hospital discharge (odds ratio 4.6, 95% CI 1.3, 18.0, p = 0.017).

Conclusion: After adjusting for age, cumulative epinephrine doses above 3 mg during cardiac arrest may be associated with unfavorable neurologic outcomes after ECPR and require further investigation.

Keywords: Cardiac arrest; Epinephrine; Extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation; Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation; Favorable neurologic outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation* / methods
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Epinephrine* / administration & dosage
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation* / methods
  • Female
  • Heart Arrest* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / administration & dosage
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / therapeutic use


  • Epinephrine
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents