• Adrenaline (epinephrine) for the treatment of anaphylaxis with and without shock

    by Alan Batt. Last modified: 07/08/14

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    Sheikh A1, Shehata YA, Brown SG, Simons FE. Adrenaline (epinephrine) for the treatment of anaphylaxis with and without shock. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Oct 8;(4):CD006312. PMID: 18843712.

    Abstract

    Background

    Anaphylaxis is a serious hypersensitivity reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death. Adrenaline is recommended as the initial treatment of choice for anaphylaxis.

    Objectives

    To assess the benefits and harms of adrenaline (epinephrine) in the treatment of anaphylaxis.

    Search strategy

    We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2007, Issue 1), MEDLINE (1966 to March 2007), EMBASE (1966 to March 2007), CINAHL (1982 to March 2007), BIOSIS (to March 2007), ISI Web of Knowledge (to March 2007) and LILACS (to March 2007). We also searched websites listing ongoing trials: http://clinicaltrials.gov/, http://www.controlledtrials.com and http://www.actr.org.au/; and contacted pharmaceutical companies and international experts in anaphylaxis in an attempt to locate unpublished material.

    Selection criteria

    Randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials comparing adrenaline with no intervention, placebo or other adrenergic agonists were eligible for inclusion.

    Data collection & analysis

    Two authors independently assessed articles for inclusion.

    Main results

    We found no studies that satisfied the inclusion criteria.

    Authors’ conclusions

    Based on this review, we are unable to make any new recommendations on the use of adrenaline for the treatment of anaphylaxis. Although there is a need for randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials of high methodological quality in order to define the true extent of benefits from the administration of adrenaline in anaphylaxis, such trials are unlikely to be performed in individuals with anaphylaxis. Indeed, they might be unethical because prompt treatment with adrenaline is deemed to be critically important for survival in anaphylaxis. Also, such studies would be difficult to conduct because anaphylactic episodes usually occur without warning, often in a non-medical setting, and differ in severity both among individuals and from one episode to another in the same individual. Consequently, obtaining baseline measurements and frequent timed measurements might be difficult, or impossible, to obtain. In the absence of appropriate trials, we recommend, albeit on the basis of less than optimal evidence, that adrenaline administration by intramuscular (i.m.) injection should still be regarded as first-line treatment for the management of anaphylaxis.

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    Alan Batt

    Alan Batt

    Paramedic, educator, researcher
    Alan is a critical care paramedic, paramedic educator and prehospital researcher, currently working around the world as an educator and researcher. He has previously worked and studied across Europe, North America and the Middle East. He holds a Graduate Certificate in Intensive Care Paramedic Studies, and an MSc in Critical Care. His main interests are in care of the elderly, end-of-life care, patient safety, professionalism (including role and identity), and paramedic education.

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