Esmolol for refractory VF

January 13, 2015 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, ICU, Resus

Already well publicised on social media, the team at Hennepin County published a retrospective comparison between patients with refractory VF who received esmolol with those who did not(1). The results are impressive and I look forward to further studies on this.

I work in an ED in a hospital with no cath lab and no access to extracorporeal life support, limiting our options for patients who remain in shockable rhythms despite ACLS interventions. We now have esmolol available in our resus room. You might want to keep it in your list of options for ACLS-refractory VF, which might also include double sequential external defibrillation(2) and even stellate ganglion block.

The dose of esmolol used was: loading dose 500 mcg/kg, followed by infusions of 0, 50, or 100 mcg/kg/min

An important point to note in the esmolol study is that almost all patients received high-quality mechanical CPR with the combined use of an impedence threshold device to augment venous return and cardiac output. The authors “speculate that this additional hemodynamic support may be essential given the hypotensive effects of esmolol.”

1. Use of esmolol after failure of standard cardiopulmonary resuscitation to treat patients with refractory ventricular fibrillation
Resuscitation. 2014 Oct;85(10):1337-41

INTRODUCTION: We compare the outcomes for patients who received esmolol to those who did not receive esmolol during refractory ventricular fibrillation (RVF) in the emergency department (ED).

METHODS: A retrospective investigation in an urban academic ED of patients between January 2011 and January 2014 of patients with out-of-hospital or ED cardiac arrest (CA) with an initial rhythm of ventricular fibrillation (VF) or ventricular tachycardia (VT) who received at least three defibrillation attempts, 300mg of amiodarone, and 3mg of adrenaline, and who remained in CA upon ED arrival. Patients who received esmolol during CA were compared to those who did not.

RESULTS: 90 patients had CA with an initial rhythm of VF or VT; 65 patients were excluded, leaving 25 for analysis. Six patients received esmolol during cardiac arrest, and nineteen did not. All patients had ventricular dysrhythmias refractory to many defibrillation attempts, including defibrillation after administration of standard ACLS medications. Most received high doses of adrenaline, amiodarone, and sodium bicarbonate. Comparing the patients that received esmolol to those that did not: 67% and 42% had temporary return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC); 67% and 32% had sustained ROSC; 66% and 32% survived to intensive care unit admission; 50% and 16% survived to hospital discharge; and 50% and 11% survived to discharge with a favorable neurologic outcome, respectively.

CONCLUSION: Beta-blockade should be considered in patients with RVF in the ED prior to cessation of resuscitative efforts.

2. Double Sequential External Defibrillation in Out-of-Hospital Refractory Ventricular Fibrillation: A Report of Ten Cases.
Prehosp Emerg Care. 2015 January-March;19(1):126-130

Background. Ventricular fibrillation (VF) is considered the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OOHCA) rhythm with the highest likelihood of neurologically intact survival. Unfortunately, there are occasions when VF does not respond to standard defibrillatory shocks. Current American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines acknowledge that the data are insufficient in determining the optimal pad placement, waveform, or energy level that produce the best conversion rates from OOHCA with VF.

Objective. To describe a technique of double sequential external defibrillation (DSED) for cases of refractory VF (RVF) during OOHCA resuscitation.

Methods. A retrospective case series was performed in an urban/suburban emergency medical services (EMS) system with advanced life support care and a population of 900,000. Included were all adult OOHCAs having RVF during resuscitation efforts by EMS providers. RVF was defined as persistent VF following at least 5 unsuccessful single shocks, epinephrine administration, and a dose of antiarrhythmic medication. Once the patient was in RVF, EMS personnel applied a second set of pads and utilized a second defibrillator for single defibrillation with the new monitor/pad placement. If VF continued, EMS personnel then utilized the original and second monitor/defibrillator charged to maximum energy, and shocks were delivered from both machines simultaneously. Data were collected from electronic dispatch and patient care reports for descriptive analysis.

Results. From 01/07/2008 to 12/31/2010, a total of 10 patients were treated with DSED. The median age was 76.5 (IQR: 65-82), with median resuscitation time of 51minutes (IQR: 45-62). The median number of single shocks was 6.5 (IQR: 6-11), with a median of 2 (IQR: 1-3) DSED shocks delivered. VF broke after DSED in 7 cases (70%). Only 3 patients (30%) had ROSC in the field, and none survived to discharge.

Conclusion. This case series demonstrates that DSED may be a feasible technique as part of an aggressive treatment plan for RVF in the out-of-hospital setting. In this series, RVF was terminated 70% of the time, but no patient survived to discharge. Further research is needed to better understand the characteristics of and treatment strategies for RVF.

Atropine for Paediatric RSI?

April 5, 2014 by  
Filed under All Updates, EMS, ICU, Kids, Resus

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paedRSIdrugiconIn some areas it has been traditional to pre-medicate or co-medicate with atropine when intubating infants and children, despite a lack of any evidence showing benefit. It is apparently still in the American Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) Provider Manual when age is less than 1 year or age is 1–5 years and receiving succinylcholine. However it is not recommended with rapid sequence intubation in the British and Australasian Advanced Paediatric Life Support manual and course.

A French non-randomised observational study compares intubations with and without atropine in the neonatal and paediatric critical care setting. Atropine use was associated with significant acceleration of heart rate, and no atropine use was associated with a higher incidence of new dysrhythmia, the most common being junctional rhythm, but with none appearing to be clinically significant.

The incidence of the most important peri-intubation cause of bradycardia – hypoxia – is not reported. It is also not clear how many intubation attempts were required. The authors admit:

it is not possible using our methodology to deduce whether bradycardia was due to hypoxia, laryngoscopy, or sedation drugs.

Actual rapid sequence was rarely employed – their use of muscle relaxants was low – making this difficult to extrapolate to modern emergency medicine / critical care practice.

My take home message here is that this study provides no argument whatsoever for the addition of atropine in routine RSI in the critically ill child. Why complicate a procedure with an unnecessary tachycardia-causing drug when the focus should be on no desat / no hypotension / first look laryngoscopy?

The Effect of Atropine on Rhythm and Conduction Disturbances During 322 Critical Care Intubations
Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2013 Jul;14(6):e289-97

OBJECTIVES: Our objectives were to describe the prevalence of arrhythmia and conduction abnormalities before critical care intubation and to test the hypothesis that atropine had no effect on their prevalence during intubation.

DESIGN: Prospective, observational study.

SETTING: PICU and pediatric/neonatal intensive care transport.

SUBJECTS: All children of age less than 8 years intubated September 2007-2009. Subgroups of intubations with and without atropine were analyzed.


MEASUREMENT AND MAIN RESULTS: A total of 414 intubations were performed in the study period of which 327 were available for analysis (79%). Five children (1.5%) had arrhythmias prior to intubation and were excluded from the atropine analysis. Atropine was used in 47% (152/322) of intubations and resulted in significant acceleration of heart rate without provoking ventricular arrhythmias. New arrhythmias during intubation were related to bradycardia and were less common with atropine use (odds ratio, 0.14 [95% CI, 0.06-0.35], p < 0.001). The most common new arrhythmia was junctional rhythm. Acute bundle branch block was observed during three intubations; one Mobitz type 2 rhythm and five ventricular escape rhythms occurred in the no-atropine group (n = 170). Only one ventricular escape rhythm occurred in the atropine group (n = 152) in a child with an abnormal heart. One child died during intubation who had not received atropine.

CONCLUSIONS: Atropine significantly reduced the prevalence of new arrhythmias during intubation particularly for children over 1 month of age, did not convert sinus tachycardia to ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation, and may contribute to the safety of intubation.

Etomidate – there is always a downside

January 14, 2014 by  
Filed under All Updates, ICU

By Norwegian intensivist/anaesthetist/HEMS Physician Dr Per Bredmose.

[Warning – Rant level: Viking]

Etomidate has for a long time been known in some countries as the “drug of choice” for RSI in unstable/fragile patients. This is due to the fact that induction with etomidate is fairly cardiovascularly stable. However, there is a down side: a subsequent suppression of adrenal function. This was initially discovered after etomidate was used for sedation infusions on ICU.

It has for a long time been debated whether this is a side effect with clinical implications after a single dose induction… and yes it has.

A recent Japanese study demonstrates this(1). This is a large propensity based study. Now, propensity based statistics are pretty complex to explain. In short, it is an advanced method to strengthen the statistics when comparing groups in non-cross over studies.

In this study 2616 patients receiving etomidate for induction and a volatile agent for maintenance are included.
This showed an increased OR for 30-days mortality with a factor of 2.5 and 1.5 times greater chance for a major cardiovascular event in hospital. Interestingly enough, there were no significant differences in either perioperative vasopressor use or infections complications during hospital stay.

What does this mean?
In my mind and experience, it strengthens the fact that there is no wonder drug. And also that there seems to be a reason for why etomidate is de-registered in many countries.
Also, it tells me that for a safe prehospital RSI we need physicians capable of clinical judgment and “decision making” to tailor an (any) induction agent to the specific individual patient. In my mind, there is no room for an etomidate-only (dose / weight) induction protocol!

1. Komatsu R, You J, Mascha EJ, Sessler DI, Kasuya Y, Turan A.
Anesthetic induction with etomidate, rather than propofol, is associated with increased 30-day mortality and cardiovascular morbidity after noncardiac surgery.
Anesth Analg. 2013 Dec;117(6):1329-37

Beta blockers potentially beneficial in septic shock

November 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus

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Counterintuitive as it sounds, this is pretty cool. I blogged about these guys before when they published their findings on microcirculatory flow in septic patients given beta blockers.

It’s a small study – 77 patients with septic shock and a heart rate of 95/min or higher requiring high-dose norepinephrine to maintain a mean arterial pressure of at least 65 mm Hg were randomised to receive a continuous infusion of esmolol titrated to maintain heart rate between 80/min and 94/min for their ICU stay. 77 patients received standard treatment. It should be noted the primary outcome (target heart rate) was not a patient-oriented endpoint. Interestingly though, there were no increased adverse events in the beta blocker group, which demonstrated improved left ventricular stroke work, lower lactate levels, decreased noradrenaline and fluid requirements, improved oxygenation, and a lower mortality.

Caution is appropriate here though: this study was a small, single-centre open-label trial. It will be very interesting to see if these effects are reproduced and whether they will ultimately translate to meaningful outcome benefits.

Read more about the study at the PulmCCM site.

There is also a great critical appraisal of the study at Emergency Medicine Literature of Note/a>.

Effect of heart rate control with esmolol on hemodynamic and clinical outcomes in patients with septic shock: a randomized clinical trial
JAMA. 2013 Oct 23;310(16):1683-91

IMPORTANCE: β-Blocker therapy may control heart rate and attenuate the deleterious effects of β-adrenergic receptor stimulation in septic shock. However, β-Blockers are not traditionally used for this condition and may worsen cardiovascular decompensation related through negative inotropic and hypotensive effects.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effect of the short-acting β-blocker esmolol in patients with severe septic shock.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PATIENTS: Open-label, randomized phase 2 study, conducted in a university hospital intensive care unit (ICU) between November 2010 and July 2012, involving patients in septic shock with a heart rate of 95/min or higher requiring high-dose norepinephrine to maintain a mean arterial pressure of 65 mm Hg or higher.

INTERVENTIONS: We randomly assigned 77 patients to receive a continuous infusion of esmolol titrated to maintain heart rate between 80/min and 94/min for their ICU stay and 77 patients to standard treatment.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Our primary outcome was a reduction in heart rate below the predefined threshold of 95/min and to maintain heart rate between 80/min and 94/min by esmolol treatment over a 96-hour period. Secondary outcomes included hemodynamic and organ function measures; norepinephrine dosages at 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours; and adverse events and mortality occurring within 28 days after randomization.

RESULTS: Targeted heart rates were achieved in all patients in the esmolol group compared with those in the control group. The median AUC for heart rate during the first 96 hours was -28/min (IQR, -37 to -21) for the esmolol group vs -6/min (95% CI, -14 to 0) for the control group with a mean reduction of 18/min (P <  .001). For stroke volume index, the median AUC for esmolol was 4 mL/m2 (IQR, -1 to 10) vs 1 mL/m2 for the control group (IQR, -3 to 5; P = .02), whereas the left ventricular stroke work index for esmolol was 3 mL/m2 (IQR, 0 to 8) vs 1 mL/m2 for the control group (IQR, -2 to 5; P = .03). For arterial lactatemia, median AUC for esmolol was -0.1 mmol/L (IQR, -0.6 to 0.2) vs 0.1 mmol/L for the control group (IQR, -0.3 for 0.6; P = .007); for norepinephrine, -0.11 μg/kg/min (IQR, -0.46 to 0.02) for the esmolol group vs -0.01 μg/kg/min (IQR, -0.2 to 0.44) for the control group (P = .003). Fluid requirements were reduced in the esmolol group: median AUC was 3975 mL/24 h (IQR, 3663 to 4200) vs 4425 mL/24 h(IQR, 4038 to 4775) for the control group (P < .001). We found no clinically relevant differences between groups in other cardiopulmonary variables nor in rescue therapy requirements. Twenty-eight day mortality was 49.4% in the esmolol group vs 80.5% in the control group (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.39; 95% CI, 0.26 to 0.59; P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: For patients in septic shock, open-label use of esmolol vs standard care was associated with reductions in heart rates to achieve target levels, without increased adverse events. The observed improvement in mortality and other secondary clinical outcomes warrants further investigation.

Beta blockade in sepsis

September 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus

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tachy-iconWhat do septic patients need if they remain shocked after fluid resuscitation? Catecholamines right? Let’s stimulate some adrenoceptors and support that circulation!

Sydney’s Prof Myburgh has told us why adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) are the go-to vasoactive choices, and Prof Singer from London likes to remind us about the detrimental effects of these drugs – the pros and cons are listed here. Tachycardia is associated with worse outcomes in sepsis, and the balance of oxygen supply and demand can be difficult to achieve. Beta blocking drugs could reduce tachycardia, but there does seem to be something counter-intuitive about giving both beta-blockers and catecholamines in the same patient. You might expect that beta blockers would cause fall in cardiac output and worsen tissue perfusion.

A small study previously showed possible helpful effects of beta blockers in children with burns. The potential benefits may extend beyond control of heart rate to anti-inflammatory / anti-catabolic effects. A recent publication evaluated beta blockers in adult patients with septic shock, which appears to be a pilot study for an ongoing randomised controlled trial.

They included patients who had been fluid resuscitated and who required noradrenaline, and treated them with a titrated esmolol infusion commenced at 25 mg/hr, with an upper dose limit of 2,000 mg/hr, to maintain a predefined HR range between 80 and 94 beats per minute. Esmolol was chosen because of its half-life of approximately 2 min, so any adverse effects could be rapidly reversed. They examined the macrocirculation using pulmonary artery catheterisation and the microcirculation using sublingual microvascular blood flow imaging.

Most of the patients had pneumonia, and interestingly, all patients received intravenous hydrocortisone (200mg/d) as a continuous infusion.

In this small cohort of patients, they found that titrating the heart rate to less than 95 bpm was associated with maintenance of stroke volume and preservation of microvascular blood flow. Although cardiac output fell because of the lower HR, stroke volume, MAP, and lactate levels were unchanged while noradrenaline requirements were reduced.

Increased vascular reactivity to norepinephrine following nonselective β-blockade is supported by volunteer and animal studies, and postulated mechanisms include:
  • blockade of a peripheral β2-mediated vasodilatory effect of noradrenaline
  • decreased clearance of infused noradrenaline
  • a centrally mediated effect on reflex activity
  • inhibition of vascular endothelial nitric oxide synthase activity

Microvascular Effects of Heart Rate Control With Esmolol in Patients With Septic Shock: A Pilot Study
Crit Care Med. 2013 Sep;41(9):2162-2168


OBJECTIVE: β-blocker therapy may control heart rate and attenuate the deleterious effects of β-stimulating catecholamines in septic shock. However, their negative chronotropy and inotropy may potentially lead to an inappropriately low cardiac output, with a subsequent compromise of microvascular blood flow. The purpose of the present pilot study was to investigate the effects of reducing heart rate to less than 95 beats per minute in patients with septic shock using the β-1 adrenoceptor blocker, esmolol, with specific focus on systemic hemodynamics and the microcirculation.

DESIGN: Prospective, observational clinical study.

SETTING: Multidisciplinary ICU at a university hospital.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: After 24 hours of initial hemodynamic optimization, 25 septic shock patients with a heart rate greater than or equal to 95 beats per minute and requiring norepinephrine to maintain mean arterial pressure greater than or equal to 65 mm Hg received a titrated esmolol infusion to maintain heart rate less than 95 beats per minute. Sublingual microcirculatory blood flow was assessed by sidestream dark-field imaging. All measurements, including data from right heart catheterization and norepinephrine requirements, were obtained at baseline and 24 hours after esmolol administration. Heart rates targeted between 80 and 94 beats per minute were achieved in all patients. Whereas cardiac index decreased (4.0 [3.5; 5.3] vs 3.1 [2.6; 3.9] L/min/m; p < 0.001), stroke volume remained unchanged (34 [37; 47] vs 40 [31; 46] mL/beat/m; p = 0.32). Microcirculatory blood flow in small vessels increased (2.8 [2.6; 3.0] vs 3.0 [3.0; 3.0]; p = 0.002), while the heterogeneity index decreased (median 0.06 [interquartile range 0; 0.21] vs 0 [0; 0]; p = 0.002). PaO2 and pH increased while PaCO2 decreased (all p < 0.05). Of note, norepinephrine requirements were significantly reduced by selective β-1 blocker therapy (0.53 [0.29; 0.96] vs 0.41 [0.22; 0.79] µg/kg/min; p = 0.03).

CONCLUSIONS: This pilot study demonstrated that heart rate control by a titrated esmolol infusion in septic shock patients was associated with maintenance of stroke volume, preserved microvascular blood flow, and a reduction in norepinephrine requirements.

Xenon – no bull?

August 31, 2013 by  
Filed under All Updates, ICU

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Xenon, an inert ‘noble’ gas with proven anaesthetic properties, has possible neuroprotective properties and appears to be also cardioprotective in this small study of post-cardiac arrest patients. Its high viscosity affects airway resistance, resulting in higher peak pressures and the need for a strategy to avoid gas trapping (ie. longer expiratory times as with asthma). Apparently it’s expensive, but these results suggest further study is warranted.

Feasibility and Cardiac Safety of Inhaled Xenon in Combination With Therapeutic Hypothermia Following Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest
Crit Care Med. 2013 Sep;41(9):2116-24

OBJECTIVES: Preclinical studies reveal the neuroprotective properties of xenon, especially when combined with hypothermia. The purpose of this study was to investigate the feasibility and cardiac safety of inhaled xenon treatment combined with therapeutic hypothermia in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients.

DESIGN: An open controlled and randomized single-centre clinical drug trial ( NCT00879892).

SETTING: A multipurpose ICU in university hospital.

PATIENTS: Thirty-six adult out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients (18-80 years old) with ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia as initial cardiac rhythm.

INTERVENTIONS: Patients were randomly assigned to receive either mild therapeutic hypothermia treatment with target temperature of 33°C (mild therapeutic hypothermia group, n = 18) alone or in combination with xenon by inhalation, to achieve a target concentration of at least 40% (Xenon + mild therapeutic hypothermia group, n = 18) for 24 hours. Thirty-three patients were evaluable (mild therapeutic hypothermia group, n = 17; Xenon + mild therapeutic hypothermia group, n = 16).

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Patients were treated and monitored according to the Utstein protocol. The release of troponin-T was determined at arrival to hospital and at 24, 48, and 72 hours after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The median end-tidal xenon concentration was 47% and duration of the xenon inhalation was 25.5 hours. The frequency of serious adverse events, including inhospital mortality, status epilepticus, and acute kidney injury, was similar in both groups and there were no unexpected serious adverse reactions to xenon during hospital stay. In addition, xenon did not induce significant conduction, repolarization, or rhythm abnormalities. Median dose of norepinephrine during hypothermia was lower in xenon-treated patients (mild therapeutic hypothermia group = 5.30 mg vs Xenon + mild therapeutic hypothermia group = 2.95 mg, p = 0.06). Heart rate was significantly lower in Xenon + mild therapeutic hypothermia patients during hypothermia (p = 0.04). Postarrival incremental change in troponin-T at 72 hours was significantly less in the Xenon + mild therapeutic hypothermia group (p = 0.04).

CONCLUSIONS: Xenon treatment in combination with hypothermia is feasible and has favorable cardiac features in survivors of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

Clopidogrel and aspirin for TIA

July 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, ICU, Resus

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A large Chinese trial compared aspirin alone with combination aspirin / clopidogrel in patients who had had a TIA in the previous 24 hours. 90-day stroke outcome was reduced in the combination therapy group without an apparent increase in haemorrhage.

Clopidogrel with Aspirin in Acute Minor Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack
N Engl J Med. 2013 Jul 4;369(1):11-19

Background Stroke is common during the first few weeks after a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or minor ischemic stroke. Combination therapy with clopidogrel and aspirin may provide greater protection against subsequent stroke than aspirin alone.

Methods In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted at 114 centers in China, we randomly assigned 5170 patients within 24 hours after the onset of minor ischemic stroke or high-risk TIA to combination therapy with clopidogrel and aspirin (clopidogrel at an initial dose of 300 mg, followed by 75 mg per day for 90 days, plus aspirin at a dose of 75 mg per day for the first 21 days) or to placebo plus aspirin (75 mg per day for 90 days). All participants received open-label aspirin at a clinician-determined dose of 75 to 300 mg on day 1. The primary outcome was stroke (ischemic or hemorrhagic) during 90 days of follow-up in an intention-to-treat analysis. Treatment differences were assessed with the use of a Cox proportional-hazards model, with study center as a random effect.

Results Stroke occurred in 8.2% of patients in the clopidogrel-aspirin group, as compared with 11.7% of those in the aspirin group (hazard ratio, 0.68; 95% confidence interval, 0.57 to 0.81; P<0.001). Moderate or severe hemorrhage occurred in seven patients (0.3%) in the clopidogrel-aspirin group and in eight (0.3%) in the aspirin group (P=0.73); the rate of hemorrhagic stroke was 0.3% in each group.

Conclusions Among patients with TIA or minor stroke who can be treated within 24 hours after the onset of symptoms, the combination of clopidogrel and aspirin is superior to aspirin alone for reducing the risk of stroke in the first 90 days and does not increase the risk of hemorrhage.

5 days of steroids for COPD exacerbation

July 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Resus

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A randomised trial showed 5 days of oral steroid therapy (40 mg prednisone) was non-inferior to 14 days’ duration in delaying the next exacerbation.

Short-term vs conventional glucocorticoid therapy in acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: the REDUCE randomized clinical trial
JAMA. 2013 Jun 5;309(21):2223-31

IMPORTANCE: International guidelines advocate a 7- to 14-day course of systemic glucocorticoid therapy in acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, the optimal dose and duration are unknown.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether a short-term (5 days) systemic glucocorticoid treatment in patients with COPD exacerbation is noninferior to conventional (14 days) treatment in clinical outcome and whether it decreases the exposure to steroids.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PATIENTS: REDUCE: (Reduction in the Use of Corticosteroids in Exacerbated COPD), a randomized, noninferiority multicenter trial in 5 Swiss teaching hospitals, enrolling 314 patients presenting to the emergency department with acute COPD exacerbation, past or present smokers (≥20 pack-years) without a history of asthma, from March 2006 through February 2011.

INTERVENTIONS: Treatment with 40 mg of prednisone daily for either 5 or 14 days in a placebo-controlled, double-blind fashion. The predefined noninferiority criterion was an absolute increase in exacerbations of at most 15%, translating to a critical hazard ratio of 1.515 for a reference event rate of 50%.

MAIN OUTCOME AND MEASURE: Time to next exacerbation within 180 days.

RESULTS: Of 314 randomized patients, 289 (92%) of whom were admitted to the hospital, 311 were included in the intention-to-treat analysis and 296 in the per-protocol analysis. Hazard ratios for the short-term vs conventional treatment group were 0.95 (90% CI, 0.70 to 1.29; P = .006 for noninferiority) in the intention-to-treat analysis and 0.93 (90% CI, 0.68 to 1.26; P = .005 for noninferiority) in the per-protocol analysis, meeting our noninferiority criterion. In the short-term group, 56 patients (35.9%) reached the primary end point; 57 (36.8%) in the conventional group. Estimates of reexacerbation rates within 180 days were 37.2% (95% CI, 29.5% to 44.9%) in the short-term; 38.4% (95% CI, 30.6% to 46.3%) in the conventional, with a difference of -1.2% (95% CI, -12.2% to 9.8%) between the short-term and the conventional. Among patients with a reexacerbation, the median time to event was 43.5 days (interquartile range [IQR], 13 to 118) in the short-term and 29 days (IQR, 16 to 85) in the conventional. There was no difference between groups in time to death, the combined end point of exacerbation, death, or both and recovery of lung function. In the conventional group, mean cumulative prednisone dose was significantly higher (793 mg [95% CI, 710 to 876 mg] vs 379 mg [95% CI, 311 to 446 mg], P < .001), but treatment-associated adverse reactions, including hyperglycemia and hypertension, did not occur more frequently.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In patients presenting to the emergency department with acute exacerbations of COPD, 5-day treatment with systemic glucocorticoids was noninferior to 14-day treatment with regard to reexacerbation within 6 months of follow-up but significantly reduced glucocorticoid exposure. These findings support the use of a 5-day glucocorticoid treatment in acute exacerbations of COPD.

Potential new therapy for acute heart failure

July 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, ICU, Resus

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Interesting new drug to know about: Serelaxin, recombinant human relaxin-2. It’s hard to assess the clinical significance of the statistically significant findings. Let’s see if a benefit is replicated in future studies. It’s hard to imagine a normotensive patient that can’t be fixed with existing therapies though.

Serelaxin, recombinant human relaxin-2, for treatment of acute heart failure (RELAX-AHF): a randomised, placebo-controlled trial.

Lancet. 2013 Jan 5;381(9860):29-39

BACKGROUND: Serelaxin, recombinant human relaxin-2, is a vasoactive peptide hormone with many biological and haemodynamic effects. In a pilot study, serelaxin was safe and well tolerated with positive clinical outcome signals in patients with acute heart failure. The RELAX-AHF trial tested the hypothesis that serelaxin-treated patients would have greater dyspnoea relief compared with patients treated with standard care and placebo.

METHODS: RELAX-AHF was an international, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, enrolling patients admitted to hospital for acute heart failure who were randomly assigned (1:1) via a central randomisation scheme blocked by study centre to standard care plus 48-h intravenous infusions of placebo or serelaxin (30 μg/kg per day) within 16 h from presentation. All patients had dyspnoea, congestion on chest radiograph, increased brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) or N-terminal prohormone of BNP, mild-to-moderate renal insufficiency, and systolic blood pressure greater than 125 mm Hg. Patients, personnel administering study drug, and those undertaking study-related assessments were masked to treatment assignment. The primary endpoints evaluating dyspnoea improvement were change from baseline in the visual analogue scale area under the curve (VAS AUC) to day 5 and the proportion of patients with moderate or marked dyspnoea improvement measured by Likert scale during the first 24 h, both analysed by intention to treat. This trial is registered at, NCT00520806.

FINDINGS: 1161 patients were randomly assigned to serelaxin (n=581) or placebo (n=580). Serelaxin improved the VAS AUC primary dyspnoea endpoint (448 mm × h, 95% CI 120-775; p=0·007) compared with placebo, but had no significant effect on the other primary endpoint (Likert scale; placebo, 150 patients [26%]; serelaxin, 156 [27%]; p=0·70). No significant effects were recorded for the secondary endpoints of cardiovascular death or readmission to hospital for heart failure or renal failure (placebo, 75 events [60-day Kaplan-Meier estimate, 13·0%]; serelaxin, 76 events [13·2%]; hazard ratio [HR] 1·02 [0·74-1·41], p=0·89] or days alive out of the hospital up to day 60 (placebo, 47·7 [SD 12·1] days; serelaxin, 48·3 [11·6]; p=0·37). Serelaxin treatment was associated with significant reductions of other prespecified additional endpoints, including fewer deaths at day 180 (placebo, 65 deaths; serelaxin, 42; HR 0·63, 95% CI 0·42-0·93; p=0·019).

INTERPRETATION: Treatment of acute heart failure with serelaxin was associated with dyspnoea relief and improvement in other clinical outcomes, but had no effect on readmission to hospital. Serelaxin treatment was well tolerated and safe, supported by the reduced 180-day mortality

Stroke thrombolysis outcomes from registry

July 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Acute Med, All Updates, EMS, Resus

Data from a large national stroke registry are reported to show that in patients who received tPA, outcomes were worse the later it was given. From a registry of over a million patients, the study group included 58353 patients from 1395 sites treated after emergency department arrival with IV tPA within 4.5 hours of symptom onset. Reported odds ratios were small but statistically significant in this large sample size. There was a 4.9% rate of intracranial haemorrhage.

As there is no comparison with patients who did not receive tPA, one cannot conclude from this study that tPA is either beneficial or harmful. It may however be used as an argument that if you’re working in a centre where the patients are going to get the tPA, it’s advisable not to delay it.

Time to treatment with intravenous tissue plasminogen activator and outcome from acute ischemic stroke
JAMA. 2013 Jun 19;309(23):2480-8

IMPORTANCE: Randomized clinical trials suggest the benefit of intravenous tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) in acute ischemic stroke is time dependent. However, modest sample sizes have limited characterization of the extent to which onset to treatment (OTT) time influences outcome; and the generalizability of findings to clinical practice is uncertain.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the degree to which OTT time is associated with outcome among patients with acute ischemic stroke treated with intraveneous tPA.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PATIENTS: Data were analyzed from 58,353 patients with acute ischemic stroke treated with tPA within 4.5 hours of symptom onset in 1395 hospitals participating in the Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Program, April 2003 to March 2012.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Relationship between OTT time and in-hospital mortality, symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage, ambulatory status at discharge, and discharge destination.

RESULTS: Among the 58,353 tPA-treated patients, median age was 72 years, 50.3% were women, median OTT time was 144 minutes (interquartile range, 115-170), 9.3% (5404) had OTT time of 0 to 90 minutes, 77.2% (45,029) had OTT time of 91 to 180 minutes, and 13.6% (7920) had OTT time of 181 to 270 minutes. Median pretreatment National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale documented in 87.7% of patients was 11 (interquartile range, 6-17). Patient factors most strongly associated with shorter OTT included greater stroke severity (odds ratio [OR], 2.8; 95% CI, 2.5-3.1 per 5-point increase), arrival by ambulance (OR, 5.9; 95% CI, 4.5-7.3), and arrival during regular hours (OR, 4.6; 95% CI, 3.8-5.4). Overall, there were 5142 (8.8%) in-hospital deaths, 2873 (4.9%) patients had intracranial hemorrhage, 19,491 (33.4%) patients achieved independent ambulation at hospital discharge, and 22,541 (38.6%) patients were discharged to home. Faster OTT, in 15-minute increments, was associated with reduced in-hospital mortality (OR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.95-0.98; P < .001), reduced symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage (OR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.95-0.98; P < .001), increased achievement of independent ambulation at discharge (OR, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.03-1.05; P < .001), and increased discharge to home (OR, 1.03; 95% CI, 1.02-1.04; P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In a registry representing US clinical practice, earlier thrombolytic treatment was associated with reduced mortality and symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage, and higher rates of independent ambulation at discharge and discharge to home following acute ischemic stroke. These findings support intensive efforts to accelerate hospital presentation and thrombolytic treatment in patients with stroke.

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