Early peripheral noradrenaline in septic shock

Early Use of Noradrenaline in Septic Shock resuscitation (CENSER): A Randomized Trial

Chairat Permpikul et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med Vol 199, Iss 9, pp 1097–1105, May 1, 2019.


  • Murine models show increased organ perfusion with increased mean arterial blood pressure
  • There are retrospective studies in humans that show improvements in mortality


Does administering low-dose noradrenaline at the beginning of sepsis-induced hypotension resuscitation accelerate shock control compared to fluid resuscitation followed by noradrenaline (usual practise)?


  • Randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial
  • Single centre in Bangkok (tertiary teaching hospital)
  • October 2013 – March 2017

Eligibility criteria

  • All patients >18 years meeting Surviving Sepsis Campaign 2012 diagnostic criteria for sepsis with a MAP <65mmHg attributable to infection
  • Exclusion criteria attempted to exclude other causes of hypotension


  • Randomisation by computer generated randomization table produced by co-author (sequential 1:1 ratio)
  • Randomised to NA in 5% dextrose in water at 0.05mcg/kg/min or placebo (5% Dextrose in water) from onset of resuscitation through a peripheral or central line
  • Patient & medical staff were blinded to trial infusion
  • All subjects got anti-infective agent, source control and organ support as needed
  • Open-label vasopressors were permitted for refractory shock after 30ml/kg of intravenous fluid
  • Those needing further organ support went to ICU (for arterial-line monitoring), others went to general medical ward (no arterial-line) with nursing ratio 1:3


Primary: Control of shock at 6 hours

  • MAP >65mmHg (on 2 consecutive BP measurements 15 mins apart)
    • PLUS, evidence of organ perfusion: either UO >0.5ml/kg/hr for 2 consecutive hours OR >10% reduction in lactate from baseline

Secondary: 28-day mortality, hhospital mortality and rate of resp failure requiring mechanical ventilation, RRT, days requiring organ support up to Day 28

Safety: New onset arrhythmias, organ ischaemia, pulmonary oedema (till hospital d/c or death) and death


  • Well matched baseline characteristics
  • Primary outcome: Treatment with noradrenaline from the start resulted a greater number of patients achieving MAP target of >65mmHg plus evidence of organ perfusion by 6 hours. 118/155 patients in treatment group compared to 75/155 patients in placebo group, OR 3.4 (2.09-5.53 95%CI), p<0.001.
  • Secondary outcomes: there were no significant difference between the groups in need for organ support, ICU admissions, length of ICU stay, length of hospital stay, 28-day mortality or hospital mortality
  • Safety outcomes: Treatment with noradrenaline compared to placebo group resulted in a lower incidence of cardiogenic pulmonary oedema (22/155 patients vs 43/155 patients. RR 0.70 (95% CI 0.56-0.87), p=0.004. No significant difference in ARDS, new onset cardiac arrhythmias, hospital acquired infection, upper gastro-intestinal haemorrhage, acute limb/intestinal ischaemia, or skin necrosis.
  • Ther was no significant difference in volume of fluid administered or use of open label vasopressors.


  • Relatively small number in each group (n = 150)
  • Although blinded, clinicians may have seen the effects of intervention group which would have added bias
  • Half of intervention group went to general medical ward (nursed 1:3!) on NA 
  • Fluid resuscitation rate was not controlled (but should have equalled out between groups)
  • Single centre trial in Bangkok– and may not be generalisable
  • No cardiac output monitoring details
  • Cannot make conclusions about secondary outcomes given lack of power to assess these


  • Expectedly, early use of vasopressors results in faster resolution of shock! Early NA didn’t result in less fluid given?!
  • Improves macro and micro circulation but with no significant improvement in organ function seen in this study
  • Interesting that they infused low dose noradrenaline through central (43%) or peripheral access (57%)
  • One case of skin necrosis in both groups and no difference in evidence of splanchnic hypoperfusion
  • Fitting with local practise of starting low dose peripheral metaraminol infusions… metaraminol/phenylephrine vs NA in sepsis debate
  • Less cardiogenic shock (= fluid, ? due ↑CO) & fewer arrhythmias in NA group?
  • Safety data on peripheral NA – sample size too small to see issues here?
  • Unlikely to change practise because of the safety concerns of peripheral noradrenaline

Summary by Dr Jason Van Schoor.

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