Patient Care

Vasoactive Medications Safe in ICU via Peripheral Intravenous Access


Clinical question: Can vasoactive medications be safely given in the ICU via peripheral intravenous (PIV) access instead of central venous access?

Background: Vasoactive medications are given to a variety of patients in shock to maintain hemodynamic function. These medications are given through central venous catheters, partly out of concern for extravasation and tissue injury from PIV access use; however, placement and use of central catheters are also associated with significant morbidity.

Study design: Single-arm, observational, consecutive patient study.

Setting: Single, 18-bed medical ICU.

Synopsis: Investigators identified 734 ICU patients who received vasoactive medications through PIV lines between September 2002 and June 2014. They were 54% male gender, with an average age of 72 years and a SAPS II score average of 75. Norepinephrine, dopamine, and phenylephrine were included in the study. The decision to use these medications was based on clinical judgment. A specific pre-approved protocol, involving PIV and vein size and location, use of ultrasound confirmation, and a maximum duration of 72 hours, was used to administer these medications via PIV. Extravasation was immediately treated with injected phentolamine and topical nitroglycerin.

The average duration of PIV vasoactive medication use was 49 hours. Of the study patients, 13% eventually required central catheters, 2% experienced peripheral extravasation of medication, and none experienced tissue injury as defined by the study group.

Because the study was observational, there was no control group, and outcomes/efficacy compared to central catheters could not be assessed. Patient characteristics and other variables were not controlled for, and its single-center design makes reproducibility uncertain.

Bottom line: Vasoactive medications can be safely and feasibly administered to ICU patients through PIV lines using adequate protocols.

Citation: Cardenas-Garcia J, Schaub KF, Belchikov YG, Narasimhan M, Koenig SJ, Mayo PH. Safety of peripheral intravenous administration of vasoactive medication [published online ahead of print May 26, 2015]. J Hosp Med. doi: 10.1002/jhm.2394.

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