Aim: The authors of this review present the current evidence of the physiology, indications and use of adrenaline in neonates, with particular focus on the treatment of hypotension.
Method: A structured literature search was performed across selected electronic databases, reference lists and related articles. Abstracts arising from the search were screened for relevance according to predefined inclusion criteria. Full articles for the selected abstracts were obtained and then reviewed. Articles were analysed through a two stage process until agreement was reached between the research team on the studies for inclusion.
Results: We identified 187 animal and human studies (published between 1924-2011) using various methodologies but with two main themes: the physiology of endogenous adrenaline in neonates and the therapeutic uses of this hormone in neonatal medicine. The physiological studies measured catecholamine levels in cord blood, neonatal urine and blood, some in response to interventions such as suctioning, skin massage or morphine infusion. Within the therapeutic studies there was only one randomised controlled trial (RCT): a comparison of dopamine versus adrenaline involving 60 infants of < 32 weeks gestational age.
Conclusion: Despite the number of studies identified, we found few adequately-controlled studies on the therapeutic use of adrenaline in neonates. Future research should focus on RCTs comparing adrenaline to other commonly used inotropes.