Series Editor: Mike O’Brien, PharmD

Quick evidence-based pearls on all things pharmacology and pharmacy-related in Emergency Medicine

High-Dose Nitroglycerin for Sympathetic Crashing Acute Pulmonary Edema

Background

Nitroglycerin (NTG) is an important intervention to consider for patients with Sympathetic Crashing Acute Pulmonary Edema (SCAPE) as it significantly reduces preload, and even modestly reduces afterload with high doses. For acute pulmonary edema in the ED, NTG is often administered as an IV infusion and/or sublingual tablet. Starting the infusion at ≥ 100 mcg/min produces rapid effects in many patients and can be titrated higher as tolerated, with doses reaching 400 mcg/min or greater. Combined with noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NIPPV) and in some cases IV enalaprilat, patients often turn around quickly, from the precipice of intubation to comfortably lying in bed [1, 2]. But what does the literature say about starting with a high-dose NTG IV bolus followed by an infusion?

Evidence

A 2021 prospective, pilot study of 25 SCAPE patients proposed a clear and systematic protocol (below) for treating these critically ill patients with a combination of high-dose NTG bolus (600 – 1000 mcg over 2 mins) followed by an infusion (100 mcg/min) and NIPPV [3].There were no cases of hypotension after the bolus and 24 of the 25 patients were able to avoid intubation. Additionally, an earlier PharmERToxGuy post summarizes some of the previous studies evaluating the use of a high-dose NTG IV bolus for acute pulmonary edema.

It is important to note that some institutions may not allow IV push NTG or may limit the use of NTG boluses. Providers may then opt to implement dosing strategies such as bolusing from an IV infusion pump or initiating the infusion at a high rate for a short period (e.g., NTG 300 mcg/min for 2-3 minutes) before reducing the rate to a more traditional infusion rate (e.g., 100 mcg/min).

Bottom Line

  • A few small ED studies support the use of an initial IV NTG bolus followed by an infusion compared to the infusion alone [1, 2]
  • There is a low risk of hypotension following a single IV NTG bolus
  • Consider using the following protocol to identify which doses may be best for specific patients based on initial systolic blood pressure

Click for full-sized version [3]

 

Want to learn more about EM Pharmacology?

Read other articles in the EM Pharm Pearls Series and find previous pearls on the PharmERToxguy site.

References

  1. Wang K, Samai K. Role of high-dose intravenous nitrates in hypertensive acute heart failure. Am J Emerg Med. 2020;38(1):132-137. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2019.06.046. PMID: 31327485.
  2. Wilson SS, Kwiatkowski GM, Millis SR, Purakal JD, Mahajan AP, Levy PD. Use of nitroglycerin by bolus prevents intensive care unit admission in patients with acute hypertensive heart failure. Am J Emerg Med. 2017;35(1):126-131. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2016.10.038. PMID: 27825693.
  3. Mathew R, Kumar A, Sahu A, Wali S, Aggarwal P. High-dose nitroglycerin bolus for sympathetic crashing acute pulmonary edema: a prospective observational pilot study. The Journal of Emergency Medicine. Published online June 2021:S0736467921004674. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2021.05.011.

Beta-Blockers for Inhalant-Induced Ventricular Dysrhythmias

Background

There are a few unique scenarios when beta-blockers may be indicated for patients in cardiac arrest. Use of esmolol for refractory ventricular fibrillation was summarized in a 2016 PharmERToxGuy post with an accompanying infographic. Another potential use for beta-blockers is in the rare case of a patient with inhalant-induced ventricular dysrhythmias. The term ‘sudden sniffing death’ refers to acute cardiotoxicity associated with inhaling hydrocarbons. Check out this ACMT Toxicology Visual Pearl for more information about the background and diagnosis of inhalant abuse.

It is thought that inhalants causes myocardial sensitization via changes in various cardiac channels (e.g., sodium channels, potassium channels, calcium channels, or gap junctions) leading to prolonged repolarization and conduction [1, 2]. Additionally, chronic inhalant use can lead to structural heart damage. When the above alterations are combined with a sudden increase in catecholamines (e.g., exercise, caught sniffing), a dysrhythmia can develop which is often fatal [2-4].

Evidence

There are no case reports to support the use beta-blockers to treat inhalant-induced dysrhythmias. However, the case reports below include patients that ingested various hydrocarbons who developed ventricular dysrhythmias and improved following the initiation of beta-blockers. As the adverse cardiac effects should be similar between inhaled and ingested hydrocarbons, we can potentially extrapolate this data to patients with inhalant-induced dysrhythmias.

DemographicsAgent(s) Ingested Cardiac EffectsInterventionsResolution of dysrhythmia following BB?
39 yo M [5]TrichloroethylenepVT/VF arrestDefibrillation, Propranolol bolus and infusion

Y

70 yo F [6]TrichloroethyleneBigeminy, Junctional rhythmEsmolol bolus and infusion

Y

23 yo F [7]Chloral hydrateVF arrestEsmolol bolus and infusion

Y

27 yo M [8]Chloral hydrate, Loxapine, FluoxetineStable VTPropranolol bolus and infusion

Y

3 yo M [9]Chloral hydrateSinus tachycardia, Bigeminy, Trigeminy, NSVTEsmolol bolus and infusion

Y

44 yo M [10]Chloral hydrateStable VTPropranolol bolus, Labetalol infusion

Y

BB=beta-blocker; pVT=polymorphic ventricular tachycardia; VT=ventricular tachycardia; VF=ventricular fibrillation; NSVT=non-sustained ventricular tachycardia

Bottom Line

  • Patients presenting to the ED with cardiopulmonary manifestations of inhalant use should have routine electrolytes and an ECG to assess cardiac status
  • A quiet environment is important to decrease stimulation and minimize catecholamine surges
  • For both stable and non-perfusing dysrhythmias, propranolol or esmolol are reasonable choices to counteract the catecholamine effects, in addition to standard care [5-10]
    • Consider avoiding epinephrine and other catecholamines unless necessary, as they may worsen the dysrhythmia

Want to learn more about EM Pharmacology?

Read other articles in the EM Pharm Pearls Series and find previous pearls on the PharmERToxguy site.

References

  1. Nelson LS. Toxicologic myocardial sensitization. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 2002;40(7):867–79. doi: 10.1081/clt-120016958. PMID: 12507056.
  2. Tormoehlen LM, Tekulve KJ, Nañagas KA. Hydrocarbon toxicity: A review. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2014 Jun;52(5):479–89. doi: 10.3109/15563650.2014.923904. PMID: 24911841.
  3. Bass M. Sudden sniffing death. JAMA. 1970 Jun 22;212(12):2075–9. PMID: 5467774.
  4. Baydala L. Inhalant abuse. Paediatr Child Health. 2010 Sep;15(7):443–54. doi: 10.1093/pch/15.7.443. PMID: 21886449.
  5. Gindre G, Le Gall S, Condat P, Bazin JE. [Late ventricular fibrillation after trichloroethylene poisoning]. Ann Fr Anesth Reanim. 1997;16(2):202–3. doi: 10.1016/s0750-7658(97)87204-8. PMID: 9686084.
  6. Mortiz F, de La Chapelle A, Bauer F, Leroy JP, Goullé JP, Bonmarchand G. Esmolol in the treatment of severe arrhythmia after acute trichloroethylene poisoning. Intensive Care Med. 2000 Feb;26(2):256. doi: 10.1007/s001340050062. PMID: 10784325.
  7. Shakeer SK, Kalapati B, Al Abri SA, Al Busaidi M. Chloral hydrate overdose survived after cardiac arrest with excellent response to intravenous β-blocker. Oman Med J. 2019 May;34(3):244–8. doi: 10.5001/omj.2019.46. PMID: 31110633.
  8. Zahedi A, Grant MH, Wong DT. Successful treatment of chloral hydrate cardiac toxicity with propranolol. Am J Emerg Med. 1999 Sep;17(5):490–1. doi: 10.1016/s0735-6757(99)90256-5. PMID: 10496517.
  9. Nordt SP, Rangan C, Hardmaslani M, Clark RF, Wendler C, Valente M. Pediatric chloral hydrate poisonings and death following outpatient procedural sedation. J Med Toxicol. 2014 Jun;10(2):219–22. doi: 10.1007/s13181-013-0358-z. PMID: 24532346.
  10. Wong O, Lam T, Fung H. Two cases of chloral hydrate overdose. Hong Kong Journal of Emergency Medicine. 2009 Jul;16(3):161–7. doi: 10.1177/102490790901600307.

Utility of Nebulized Naloxone

Background

Naloxone can be administered via multiple routes, with nebulization gaining popularity in the past decade. A previous ALiEM Trick of the Trade presented this unique method of administration. In order for nebulized naloxone to be effective patients need to have some level of respiratory effort. It should not be used in patients in respiratory arrest or impending respiratory arrest. It may be a more gentle way to wake up patients to confirm the diagnosis of opioid toxicity and to gather a history. Theoretically, if the patient arouses enough to start experiencing mild withdrawal, they can ‘self-titrate’ and remove the nebulizer mask.

How is it prepared?

Mix 2 mg naloxone (5 mL of  naloxone 0.4 mg/mL) with 3 mL of 0.9% sodium chloride for inhalation in a nebulizer cup.

Evidence

Anecdotal reports tout the benefits of nebulized naloxone, but what does the literature say?

  • Case report of a 46 y/o female with an initial oxygen saturation of 61%. Naloxone 2 mg was administered via nebulization and within 5 mins her oxygen saturation was 100% and mental status was normal [1].
  • Retrospective analysis of prehospital administration in 105 patients with suspected opioid overdose. Following nebulized naloxone,  22% had a “complete response” and 59% had a “partial response.” It’s important to note that the initial respiratory rate was already 14 bpm with GCS of 12 for patients that responded to treatment [2].
  • Prospective analysis of 26 patients with suspected opioid intoxication treated at an inner-city, academic ED. Pre-naloxone the mean respiratory rate was 13 with a median GCS of 11. Following treatment, the mean respiratory rate improved to 16 with a median GCS of 13. Three patients (12%) experienced moderate-to-severe agitation and 2 (8%) became diaphoretic, suggesting precipitation of acute withdrawal [3].
  • Case report of a 20 y/o female with initial oxygen saturation of 62% (respiratory rate not reported). She improved following administration of nebulized naloxone and clinical efficacy corresponded with serum naloxone concentrations [4].

 

Importantly, aside from the two case reports, the above studies both primarily included patients without severe respiratory depression. As far as the safety of nebulized naloxone, Baumann et al. reported 5 patients (out of 26) who seemed to have mild-to-moderate symptoms of withdrawal following administration [3]. So this raises a question that must be answered on a patient specific basis: Does the benefit of this therapy outweigh the risk in patients who may not require naloxone to begin with? An alternative approach, if IV access is established, is to try low-dose diluted IV naloxone.

 

Bottom Line

Many of the studied patients may not have needed naloxone in the first place as they had an initial respiratory rate 13-14, with a few developing withdrawal symptoms. Nebulized naloxone may have a role in the “not-too-sick” opioid overdose in whom you want to prove your diagnosis and wake the patient up enough to obtain a history. It is not a therapy for an apneic patient with suspected opioid overdose.

 

References

  1. Mycyk MB, Szyszko AL, Aks SE. Nebulized naloxone gently and effectively reverses methadone intoxication. J Emerg Med. 2003;24(2):185-187. doi: 10.1016/s0736-4679(02)00723-0. PMID: 12609650.
  2. Weber JM, Tataris KL, Hoffman JD, Aks SE, Mycyk MB. Can nebulized naloxone be used safely and effectively by emergency medical services for suspected opioid overdose? Prehosp Emerg Care. 2012;16(2):289-292. doi: 10.3109/10903127.2011.640763. PMID: 22191727.
  3. Baumann BM, Patterson RA, Parone DA, et al. Use and efficacy of nebulized naloxone in patients with suspected opioid intoxication. Am J Emerg Med. 2013;31(3):585-588. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2012.10.004. PMID: 23347721.
  4. Minhaj FS, Schult RF, Fields A, Wiegand TJ. A case of nebulized naloxone use with confirmatory serum naloxone concentrations. Ann Pharmacother. 2018;52(5):495-496. doi: 10.1177/1060028017752428. PMID: 29319329.

Bupropion Overdose: Factors Associated with Seizures

Background

Bupropion ingestions are one of the scarier poisonings due to a relatively narrow therapeutic index and the numerous adverse effects that may occur. Medical toxicologist Dr. Dan Rusyniak details his hatred of this drug in overdose in a Tox & Hound blog post aptly-titled Illbutrin. When bupropion was first approved in the 1980s, the max dose was 600 mg/day [1]. However, reports of seizures, particularly in patients with bulimia, caused its temporary removal from the market [2]. It was reintroduced a few years later with a max dose of 450 mg/day [3]. Common signs and symptoms noted in overdose include seizures, agitation, sinus tachycardia, and QRS/QTc prolongation. Seizures occur in up to 40% of overdose cases, are often refractory to initial therapy, and can happen as long as 24 hours after an overdose with extended release formulations [4, 5].

Evidence

A study of 256 patients from the Toxicology Investigators Consortium (ToxIC) Registry identified three factors associated with seizure development after bupropion overdose [6, 7].

  1. QTc prolongation > 500 msec (OR = 3.4, 95% CI: 1.3-8.8)
  2. Tachycardia (heart rate > 140) (OR = 1.9, 95% CI: 1-3.6)
  3. Age 13–18 years (OR = 2.4, 95% CI: 1.3-4.3)

Agitation and tremors are more common in patients who develop seizures with bupropion compared to those who do not [4]. Additionally, presence of tachycardia (heart rate >100 bpm) has a sensitivity of 91% and a negative predictive value of 93% for development of seizures [4].

Bottom Line

  • Seizures are common following bupropion overdose and patients who seize are generally tachycardic.
  • Patients should be observed at least 24 hours after a extended release bupropion overdose, as seizures can be significantly delayed.

Want to learn more about EM Pharmacology?

Read other articles in the EM Pharm Pearls Series and find previous pearls on the PharmERToxguy site.

References

  1. Davidson J. Seizures and bupropion: a review. J Clin Psychiatry. 1989;50(7):256-261. PMID: 2500425.
  2. Horne RL, Ferguson JM, Pope HG, et al. Treatment of bulimia with bupropion: a multicenter controlled trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 1988;49(7):262-266. PMID: 3134343.
  3. Huecker MR, Smiley A, Saadabadi A. Bupropion. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2021. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470212/.
  4. Starr P, Klein-Schwartz W, Spiller H, Kern P, Ekleberry SE, Kunkel S. Incidence and onset of delayed seizures after overdoses of extended-release bupropion. Am J Emerg Med. 2009;27(8):911-915. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2008.07.004. PMID: 19857406.
  5. Al-Abri SA, Orengo JP, Hayashi S, Thoren KL, Benowitz NL, Olson KR. Delayed bupropion cardiotoxicity associated with elevated serum concentrations of bupropion but not hydroxybupropion. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2013;51(10):1230-1234. doi: 10.3109/15563650.2013.849349. PMID: 24131328.
  6. Wax PM, Kleinschmidt KC, Brent J, ACMT ToxIC Case Registry Investigators. The toxicology investigators consortium (Toxic) registry. J Med Toxicol. 2011;7(4):259-265. doi: 10.1007/s13181-011-0177-z. PMID: 21956161.
  7. Rianprakaisang TN, Prather CT, Lin AL, Murray BP, Hendrickson RG, Toxicology Investigators Consortium (ToxIC). Factors associated with seizure development after bupropion overdose: a review of the toxicology investigators consortium. Clin Toxicol (Phila). Published online April 21, 2021:1-5. doi: 10.1080/15563650.2021.1913180. PMID: 33878992.

One-Time Vancomycin Doses in the Emergency Department

Background

A previous ALiEM post from 2013 by an EM pharmacist colleague argued the case against one-time vancomycin doses in the ED prior to discharge. The take-home points from this post were:

    1. No evidence that a one-time vancomycin has any benefit
    2. This practice is not recommended by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)
    3. May extend the patient’s ED stay by at least an hour for the IV infusion, depending on the dose
    4. Increases the cost of the ED visit (e.g., IV line, medication, RN time)
    5. Pharmacokinetically 1 dose of vancomycin doesn’t make sense
      • Vancomycin 1 gm IV x1 provides sub-therapeutic levels for patients with normal renal function
      • Efficacy is based on overall exposure (e.g., AUC/MIC) achieved with repeated dosing over several days
    6. Subtherapeutic vancomycin concentrations lead to development of resistance

Despite the above points, a one-time dose of vancomycin prior to the patient being discharged on an oral regimen is a common practice [1].

Evidence

As stated above, a single dose of vancomycin is unlikely to provide a therapeutic benefit and may only serve to reassure clinicians. The 2020 consensus guidelines regarding vancomycin monitoring for serious MRSA infections reinforce the recommendation of achieving an AUC0-24/MIC ratio of ≥400, as a ratio <400 increases resistance and has inferior efficacy [2]. Since the AUC is dependent on overall time of exposure plus concentration, a single dose for an average patient with normal renal function is not adequate (Figure 1). The graph below also demonstrates how long it generally takes for vancomycin to reach steady state when patients receive a dose every 8 hours.

 

*The estimated AUC above assumes a 30 yo male that weights 70kg and is 6′ tall with a serum creatinine of 1.0 mg/dL.

A randomized trial conducted at Christiane Care Health System compared patients who received a vancomycin loading dose of 30 mg/kg or 15 mg/kg [3]. Just twelve hours after this initial dose, 34.6% of patients who received 30 mg/kg had vancomycin levels in the therapeutic range (trough >15 mg/L) vs. 3% of patients who received 15 mg/kg (p < 0.01).

Bottom Line

Even large vancomycin loading doses rarely achieve therapeutic levels after one dose. Therefore, if the plan is to discharge, skip the one-time dose altogether and choose an antimicrobial regimen that will be continued in the outpatient setting (e.g., doxycycline or sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim if concerned for MRSA or cephalexin for most other patients).

Want to learn more about EM Pharmacology?

Read other articles in the EM Pharm Pearls Series and find previous pearls on the PharmERToxguy site.

References

  1. Mueller K, McCammon C, Skrupky L, Fuller BM. Vancomycin use in patients discharged from the emergency department: a retrospective observational cohort study. J Emerg Med. 2015;49(1):50-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2015.01.001. PMID: 25802166.
  2. Rybak MJ, Le J, Lodise TP, et al. Therapeutic monitoring of vancomycin for serious methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infections: a revised consensus guideline and review by the american society of health-system pharmacists, the infectious diseases society of america, the pediatric infectious diseases society, and the society of infectious diseases pharmacists. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2020;77(11):835-864. doi: 10.1093/ajhp/zxaa036. PMID: 32191793.
  3. Rosini JM, Laughner J, Levine BJ, Papas MA, Reinhardt JF, Jasani NB. A randomized trial of loading vancomycin in the emergency department. Ann Pharmacother. 2015;49(1):6-13. doi: 10.1177/1060028014556813. PMID: 25358330.

Safety and Efficacy of Clevidipine for Acute Blood Pressure Control

Background

Rapid and precise control of blood pressure is vital for patients with a hypertensive emergency or an acute stroke. Commonly, nicardipine is utilized in these situations, with nitroprusside being a less appealing alternative. The most recent AHA/ASA Acute Ischemic Stroke Guidelines, updated in 2019, also recommend clevidipine as a first-line antihypertensive option [1]. Clevidipine is a dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers, similar in mechanism to nicardipine and amlodipine. The main advantage of clevidipine over nicardipine is related to its pharmacokinetics (Table 1). Given its shorter half-life of elimination, clevidipine can be titrated every 1-2 minutes. Additionally, if hypotension does occur, stopping the clevidipine infusion allows blood pressure to rebound quickly.

MedicationOnsetDurationHalf-Life
Clevidipine2-4 mins5-15 mins1-15 mins
Nicardipine10-20 mins1-2 hours2-4 hours
Nitroprusside1-2 mins1-10 mins2 mins

Table 1: Pharmacokinetics of Common Antihypertensive Infusions [Micromedex; Lexicomp]

Evidence

Most studies demonstrate equivalent outcomes between clevidipine and other agents (e.g., nicardipine, nitroprusside, nitroglycerin) [2-5]. The ECLIPSE trial is the largest to assess the safety and efficacy of clevidipine [6]. The authors randomized cardiac surgery patients to clevidipine, nicardipine, nitroprusside, or nitroglycerin and found no difference in the incidence of myocardial infarction, stroke, or renal dysfunction. They noted that mortality was higher in patients receiving nitroprusside vs clevidipine, but equivalent compared to the the other medications. Additionally, clevidipine treated patients had significantly fewer excursions outside the prespecified blood pressure range than patients treated with any of the other agents.

Safety

Clevidipine is formulated in a 20% lipid emulsion and packaged in a glass vial. This causes clevidipine to appear similar to propofol, which could lead to safety issues. Also, care should be taken when using both clevidipine and propofol concomitantly, especially at high doses, as both provide clinically significant amounts of lipids, so triglycerides should be monitored.

Bottom Line

Clevidipine is a safe and effective antihypertensive to use in patients that require rapid and strict blood pressure control, specifically in patients with an aortic dissection or an acute ischemic/hemorrhagic stroke.

Want to learn more about EM Pharmacology?

Read other articles in the EM Pharm Pearls Series and find previous pearls on the PharmERToxguy site.

References

  1. Powers WJ, Rabinstein AA, Ackerson T, et al. Guidelines for the early management of patients with acute ischemic stroke: 2019 update to the 2018 guidelines for the early management of acute ischemic stroke: a guideline for healthcare professionals from the american heart association/american stroke association. Stroke. 2019;50(12):e344-e418. doi: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000211. PMID: 31662037.
  2. Allison TA, Bowman S, Gulbis B, Hartman H, Schepcoff S, Lee K. Comparison of clevidipine and nicardipine for acute blood pressure reduction in patients with stroke. J Intensive Care Med. 2019;34(11-12):990-995. doi: 10.1177/0885066617724340. PMID: 28820038.
  3. Rosenfeldt Z, Conklen K, Jones B, Ferrill D, Deshpande M, Siddiqui FM. Comparison of nicardipine with clevidipine in the management of hypertension in acute cerebrovascular diseases. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2018;27(8):2067-2073. doi: 10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2018.03.001. PMID: 29627171.
  4. Ulici A, Jancik J, Lam TS, Reidt S, Calcaterra D, Cole JB. Clevidipine versus sodium nitroprusside in acute aortic dissection: A retrospective chart review. Am J Emerg Med. 2017;35(10):1514-1518. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2017.06.030. PMID: 28669696.
  5. Brehaut SS, Roche AM. Abstract W P65: Clevidipine Outperforms Other Agents in Emergent Acute Hypertension Treatment in Ischemic Stroke Pre-rt-PA. 2015;46:AWP65. doi: 10.1161/str.46.suppl_1.wp65.
  6. Aronson S, Dyke CM, Stierer KA, et al. The ECLIPSE trials: comparative studies of clevidipine to nitroglycerin, sodium nitroprusside, and nicardipine for acute hypertension treatment in cardiac surgery patients. Anesth Analg. 2008;107(4):1110-1121. doi:10.1213/ane.0b013e31818240db. PMID: 18806012.

Droperidol for Agitation in Older Adults in the Emergency Department

Droperidol is safe and effective for the treatment of severely agitated patients in the ED [1-3]. But what about its use for agitation in elderly patients specifically?

Droperidol Efficacy

Two Australian studies evaluated droperidol in more than 200 older adults (≥ 65 years old) in the prehospital and ED settings [4,5]. Both studies found droperidol to be effective in elderly patients with acute behavioral disturbances. The median time to sedation was ~20-30 minutes with doses ranging from 2.5-10 mg (Table 1). 

CharacteristicPage, et al (n=162)Calver, et al (n=47)
Median Age78 years81 years
Initial Droperidol IM Dose5 mg10 mg (n=30)
5 mg (n=15)
2.5 mg (n=2)
Median Time to Sedation19 mins10 mg: 30 mins
5 mg: 21 mins
2.5 mg: NA
Patients Sedated with ≤ 10 mg Droperidol144 (89%)34 (72%)

Table 1: Efficacy of droperidol in older adults

Droperidol Safety

Additionally, each study broke down each time a patient experienced an adverse event (Table 2). Overall, these adverse events were uncommon (4.5%), mild in nature, and resolved spontaneously or with minor interventions. No patients developed Torsades de Pointes. 

StudyAge/SexDroperidol DoseAdverse EventsManagementTime Post-Droperidol
Page, et al (n=162)76 yo Male5 mgSBP <90 (88/54)Spontaneous Resolution
87 yo Female10 mgSBP <90 (80/46)Spontaneous Resolution
79 yo Female5 mgSBP <90 (83/48)
O2 sat <90% (80%)
Supplemental Oxygen
500 mL IV Fluid
82 yo Male5 mgRR <12 (RR 10)Spontaneous Resolution
86 yo Male5 mgO2 sat <90% (88%)Supplemental Oxygen
Calver, et al (n=49)75 yo Male10 mgSBP <9030 mins
68 yo Female10 mgSBP <905 mins
73 yo Male10 mgAirway Obstruction100 mins
87 yo Female2.5 mgOversedation480 mins

Table 2: Safety of droperidol in older adults

Bottom Line

Taking the above points into account, droperidol appears to be both effective and safe in agitated adults ≥ 65 years of age for the treatment of agitation. The study authors recommend starting with 5 mg and repeating, if necessary, rather than initially using a dose of 10 mg.

Want to learn more about EM Pharmacology?

Read other articles in the EM Pharm Pearls Series and find previous pearls on the PharmERToxguy site.

References

  1. Perkins, J., Ho, J. D., Vilke, G. M., & DeMers, G. (2015). American academy of emergency medicine position statement: Safety of droperidol use in the emergency department. The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 49(1), 91–97. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2014.12.024. PMID: 25837231.
  2. PharmERToxGuy. Onset of IM Medications for Severe Agitation. Posted Dec 12, 2019.
  3. PharmERToxGuy. QTc Prolongation and Torsades de Pointes with Droperidol in the Emergency Department. Posted Aug 30, 2020.
  4. Calver, L., & Isbister, G. K. (2013). Parenteral sedation of elderly patients with acute behavioral disturbance in the ED. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine31(6), 970–973. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2013.03.026. PMID: 23685060.
  5. Page, C. B., Parker, L. E., Rashford, S. J., Kulawickrama, S., Isoardi, K. Z., & Isbister, G. K. (2020). Prospective study of the safety and effectiveness of droperidol in elderly patients for pre-hospital acute behavioural disturbance. Emergency Medicine Australasia: EMA32(5), 731–736. doi: 10.1111/1742-6723.13496. PMID: 32216048.
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