Etomidate: To use or not to use for endotracheal intubation in the critically ill?

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Abstract

Endotracheal intubation is frequently performed in the intensive care unit (ICU). It can be life-saving for many patients who present with acute respiratory distress. However, it is equally associated with complications that may lead to unwanted effects in this patient population. According to the literature, the rate of complications associated with endotracheal intubation is much higher in an environment such as the ICU as compared to other, more controlled environments (i.e., operating room). Thus, the conduct of performing such a procedure needs to be accomplished with the utmost care. To facilitate establishment of the breathing tube, sedation is routinely administered. Given the tenuous hemodynamic status of the critically ill, etomidate was frequently chosen to blunt further decreases in blood pressure and/or heart rate. Recently however, reports have demonstrated a possible association with the use of etomidate for endotracheal intubation and mortality in the critically ill. In addition, this association seems to be predominantly in patients diagnosed with sepsis. As a result, some have advocated against the use of this medication in septic patients. Due to the negative associations identified with etomidate and mortality, several investigators have evaluated potential alternatives to this solution (e.g., ketamine and ketamine-propofol admixture). These studies have shown promise. However, despite the evidence against using etomidate for endotracheal intubation, other studies have demonstrated no such association. This leaves the critical care clinician with uncertainty regarding the best sedative to administer in this patient population. The following editorial discusses current evidence regarding etomidate use for endotracheal intubation and mortality. In particular, we highlight a recent article with the largest population to date that found no association between etomidate and mortality in the critically ill and illustrate important findings that the reader should be aware of regarding this article.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E347-E349
JournalJournal of Thoracic Disease
Volume7
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

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Keywords

  • Endotracheal intubation
  • Etomidate
  • Intensive care unit (ICU)
  • Mortality
  • Sepsis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine

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