Life-threatening hypotension associated with emergency intubation and the initiation of mechanical ventilation

Am J Emerg Med. 1994 Jul;12(4):425-8. doi: 10.1016/0735-6757(94)90053-1.


To determine the incidence of life-threatening hypotension (LTH) suffered by patients in the initial hours after emergency intubation and mechanical ventilation, prospective, consecutive case series of patients undergoing endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation were evaluated in the adult emergency department of a large urban hospital. Eight-four medical patients who received intubation and mechanical ventilation for ventilatory failure, respiratory failure, or airway protection (trauma patients exluded) were included. LTH, defined as a decrease in mean arterial pressure of 60 mm Hg or an absolute decrease to a systolic blood pressure < 80 mm Hg in the first 2 hours after intubation, was observed in 24 of the 84 patients who met study criteria (incidence 28.6%). Eleven patients (incidence 13.1%) required treatment for LTH with vasopressors. There was one cardiac arrest, and there were no deaths. There was a statistically significant association between LTH and hypercarbic (PCO2 > 50 mm) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (P = .004). There was also a weaker statistical association between LTH and hypoxemic respiratory failure (P = .019). No association could be established between LTH and the other diagnoses, arterial blood gas (ABG) derangements, or the administration of sedatives or paralytic medications. LTH represents a serious complication of emergency intubation in the initial phase of mechanical ventilation. Because it occurs in more one quarter of all cases, it should be anticipated during intubation and the initial phase of ventilator management, especially in high-risk patients such as those with hypercarbic COPD.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Blood Gas Analysis
  • Blood Pressure
  • Carbon Dioxide / blood
  • Emergencies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Fluid Therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypercapnia / complications
  • Hypotension / diagnosis
  • Hypotension / epidemiology
  • Hypotension / etiology*
  • Hypotension / physiopathology
  • Hypotension / therapy
  • Hypoxia / complications
  • Incidence
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / complications
  • Resuscitation
  • Risk Factors
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / therapeutic use


  • Vasoconstrictor Agents
  • Carbon Dioxide