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Epinephrine is rapidly inactivated in the body and treatment following overdose with epinephrine is primarily supportive. If necessary, pressor effects may be counteracted by rapidly acting vasodilators or alpha-adrenergic blocking drugs. If prolonged hypotension follows such measure, it may be necessary to administer another pressor drug.
Overdosage of epinephrine may produce extremely elevated arterial pressure, which may result in cerebrovascular hemorrhage, particularly in elderly patients.
Overdosage may also result in pulmonary edema because of peripheral vascular constriction together with cardiac stimulation. Treatment consists of a rapidly acting alpha-adrenergic blocking drug and/or respiratory support.
Epinephrine overdosage can also cause transient bradycardia followed by tachycardia and these may be accompanied by potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias. Premature ventricular contractions may appear within one minute after injection and may be followed by multifocal ventricular tachycardia (prefibrillation rhythm). Subsidence of the ventricular effects may be followed by atrial tachycardia and occasionally by atrioventricular block. Treatment of arrhythmias consists of administration of a beta-blocking drug such as propranolol.
Overdosage sometimes results in extreme pallor and coldness of the skin, metabolic acidosis and kidney failure. Suitable corrective measures must be taken in such situations.
There are no absolute contraindications to the use of epinephrine in a life-threatening situation.
Last reviewed on RxList: 9/27/2012
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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