Etomidate & sepsis

A meta-analysis attempts to quantify etomidate’s effect on mortality and adrenal suppression. Of course, we all know a meta-analysis can only be as reliable as the original data it’s analysing. I think editorialists Lauzier and Turgeon have a point with their statement:

“Given the widespread use of etomidate in the emergency room, we believe that a RCT designed to evaluate the safety of etomidate as a hypnotic agent for endotracheal intubation of patients with sepsis is not only ethical but also urgently warranted”

For a critique of the paper and subsequent discussion, check out the Academic Life in EM blog post by Brian Hayes

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effects of single-dose etomidate on the adrenal axis and mortality in patients with severe sepsis and septic shock.

DESIGN: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials and observational studies with meta-analysis.

SETTING: Literature search of EMBASE, Medline, Cochrane Database, and Evidence-Based Medical Reviews.

SUBJECTS: Sepsis patients who received etomidate for rapid sequence intubation.


MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: We conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials and observational studies with meta-analysis assessing the effects of etomidate on adrenal insufficiency and all-cause mortality published between January 1950 and February 2012. We only examined studies including septic patients. All-cause mortality served as our primary end point, whereas the prevalence of adrenal insufficiency was our secondary end point. Adrenal insufficiency was determined using a cosyntropin stimulation test in all studies. We used a random effects model for analysis; heterogeneity was assessed with the I statistic. Publication bias was evaluated with Begg’s test. Five studies were identified that assessed mortality in those who received etomidate. A total of 865 subjects were included. Subjects who received etomidate were more likely to die (pooled relative risk 1.20; 95% confidence interval 1.02-1.42; Q statistic, 4.20; I2 statistic, 4.9%). Seven studies addressed the development of adrenal suppression associated with the administration of etomidate; 1,303 subjects were included. Etomidate administration increased the likelihood of developing adrenal insufficiency (pooled relative risk 1.33; 95% confidence interval 1.22-1.46; Q statistic, 10.7; I2 statistic, 43.9%).

CONCLUSIONS: Administration of etomidate for rapid sequence intubation is associated with higher rates of adrenal insufficiency and mortality in patients with sepsis.

Etomidate is associated with mortality and adrenal insufficiency in sepsis: A meta-analysis Crit Care Med. 2012 Nov;40(11):2945-53