Angiotensin II and Vasopressin for Vasodilatory Shock: A Critical Appraisal of Catecholamine-Sparing Strategies

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Intensive Care Medicine




angiotensin II; catecholamines; distributive shock; septic shock; vasodilatory shock; vasopressin


© The Author(s) 2020. Vasodilatory shock is a serious medical condition that increases the morbidity and mortality of perioperative and critically ill patients. Norepinephrine is an established first-line therapy for this condition, but at high doses, it may lead to diminishing returns. Oftentimes, secondary noncatecholamine agents are required in those whose hypotension persists. Angiotensin II and vasopressin are both noncatecholamine agents available for the treatment of hypotension in vasodilatory shock. They have distinct modes of action and unique pharmacologic properties when compared to norepinephrine. Angiotensin II and vasopressin have shown promise in certain subsets of the population, such as those with acute kidney injury, high Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II scores, or those receiving cardiac surgery. Any benefit from these drugs must be weighed against the risks, as overall mortality has not been shown to decrease mortality in the general population. The aims of this narrative review are to provide insight into the historical use of noncatecholamine vasopressors and to compare and contrast their unique modes of action, physiologic rationale for administration, efficacy, and safety profiles.