Crit Care. 2023 Aug 22;27(1):322. doi: 10.1186/s13054-023-04593-5.
During septic shock, vasopressor infusion is usually started only after having corrected the hypovolaemic component of circulatory failure, even in the most severe patients. However, earlier administration of norepinephrine, simultaneously with fluid resuscitation, should be considered in some cases. Duration and depth of hypotension strongly worsen outcomes in septic shock patients. However, the response of arterial pressure to volume expansion is inconstant, delayed, and transitory. In the case of profound, life-threatening hypotension, relying only on fluids to restore blood pressure may unduly prolong hypotension and organ hypoperfusion. Conversely, norepinephrine rapidly increases and better stabilizes arterial pressure. By binding venous adrenergic receptors, it transforms part of the unstressed blood volume into stressed blood volume. It increases the mean systemic filling pressure and increases the fluid-induced increase in mean systemic filling pressure, as observed in septic shock patients. This may improve end-organ perfusion, as shown by some animal studies. Two observational studies comparing early vs. later administration of norepinephrine in septic shock patients using a propensity score showed that early administration reduced the administered fluid volume and day-28 mortality. Conversely, in another propensity score-based study, norepinephrine administration within the first hour following shock diagnosis increased day-28 mortality. The only randomized controlled study that compared the early administration of norepinephrine alone to a placebo showed that the early continuous administration of norepinephrine at a fixed dose of 0.05 µg/kg/min, with norepinephrine added in open label, showed that shock control was achieved more often than in the placebo group. The choice of starting norepinephrine administration early should be adapted to the patient's condition. Logically, it should first be addressed to patients with profound hypotension, when the arterial tone is very low, as suggested by a low diastolic blood pressure (e.g. ≤ 40 mmHg), or by a high diastolic shock index (heart rate/diastolic blood pressure) (e.g. ≥ 3). Early administration of norepinephrine should also be considered in patients in whom fluid accumulation is likely to occur or in whom fluid accumulation would be particularly deleterious (in case of acute respiratory distress syndrome or intra-abdominal hypertension for example).