Early Vasopressors in Septic Shock?

This is a question that is often asked. Do we give fluids until the patient no longer “responds to fluids” or start vasopressors early? Should we start early vasopressors in septic shock or wait until fluids resuscitation is complete?

Here’s my bias: I dislike arbitrarily pounding patients with fluids. It causes harm. We know this.

I don’t know what people who aren’t doing advanced hemodynamic monitoring of some sort mean when they say “they respond to fluids”. “I gave a liter of fluids and the BP got better” for 30 minutes is not a determinant of fluid responsiveness. Remember, I’ve cited here before that critically ill patients extravasate 80% of that liter of fluids within one hour. What did you really do outside of feeling like you did something? The authors used PPV, SVV, echo with VTI combined with PLR, end-expiratory occlusion maneuvers, and capillary refill time. Did I mention that these authors are legends in the field? Well, they are.

In my opinion, providing pressors early provides a safety net of sorts to the organs to make sure they’re being perfused. You’ve seen it often in your ED and ICU. Patient comes in sick. They’re hypotensive, they get their 30cc/kg and their BP gets “better”. The cuff cycles again 15 minutes later and their BP is now 60/30. How long did those organs go under-perfused? Minutes matter. We NEED to get better at this. After all, we are supposed to be the biggest badasses in medicine, yet we often shrug our shoulders and react when it’s ugly instead of preemptively fixing the issues.

Did early vasopressors in septic shock help?

Turns out that very early vasopressors were beneficial to the patients. The definitions of the two groups are defined on my slides. The outcomes are also defined there for the sake of not taking up too much space.

This could be practice changing data. I personally start vasopressors really early in my practice. Some may say, let’s wait for a prospective randomized clinical trial before putting this into practice. To those people I say, there’s no harm in this. Also, you can’t blind the physicians so when that study comes out positive some will say “oh but the physicians weren’t blinded”. Research. Sigh.

A hat tip to the authors. This article was published yesterday (2/14/2020). How’s that for cutting edge?

Also, I am working on a comprehensive vasopressor post HERE.



Ospina-Tascón, G.A., Hernandez, G., Alvarez, I. et al. Effects of very early start of norepinephrine in patients with septic shock: a propensity score-based analysis. Crit Care 24, 52 (2020).
Link to Abstract

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