Changes in the pharmacotherapy of CPR

Heart Lung. Nov-Dec 1993;22(6):548-53.


The objective of this study was to review current changes in the pharmacologic management of cardiac arrest (ventricular fibrillation, pulseless ventricular tachycardia, asystole, and electromechanical dissociation) as put fourth by the American Heart Association's 1992 Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiac Care. We concluded that the 1992 Guidelines provide a reference base for all clinicians involved in emergency cardiac care. The newly revised recommendations are classified on the basis of the true clinical merit of the intervention, for example, an intervention that has been proved effective (i.e., high-dose epinephrine) versus one that is possibly effective (i.e., high-dose epinephrine). The preferred intravenous fluid to be used in resuscitation is saline solution or lactated ringers solution because of possible adverse neurologic outcomes seen with dextrose-containing fluids. The dose of all drugs administered via the endotracheal route should be 2 to 2.5 times the intravenous dose. Modifications in the dose or dosing interval have been recommended for epinephrine, atropine, lidocaine, bretylium, and procainamide during cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Options for high-dose epinephrine therapy are offered, but neither recommended or discouraged. Magnesium sulfate has been added for the management of torsades de points, severe hypomagnesemia, or refractory ventricular fibrillation. The maximum total dose of atropine in the treatment of asystole and electromechanical dissociation has been increased from 2 mg to 0.04 mg/kg. The use of sodium bicarbonate should be limited to the treatment of hyperkalemia, tricyclic antidepressant overdose, overdoses requiring urinary alkalinization, or preexisting bicarbonate sensitive acidosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use
  • Atropine / therapeutic use
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation*
  • Epinephrine / therapeutic use
  • Fluid Therapy
  • Heart Arrest / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Sodium Bicarbonate / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Atropine
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Epinephrine