What is Levophed, and how does it work?

Levophed (norepinephrine bitartrate) injection is a prescription medication used for

What are the side effects of Levophed?

The following reactions can occur:

  • Body As A Whole: Ischemic injury due to potent vasoconstrictor action and tissue hypoxia.
  • Cardiovascular System: Bradycardia, probably as a reflex result of a rise in blood pressure, arrhythmias.
  • Nervous System: Anxiety, transient headache.
  • Respiratory System: Respiratory difficulty.
  • Skin and Appendages: Extravasation necrosis at injection site.

Prolonged administration of any potent vasopressor may result in plasma volume depletion which should be continuously corrected by appropriate fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy. If plasma volumes are not corrected, hypotension may recur when Levophed is discontinued, or blood pressure may be maintained at the risk of severe peripheral and visceral vasoconstriction (e.g., decreased renal perfusion) with diminution in blood flow and tissue perfusion with subsequent tissue hypoxia and lactic acidosis and possible ischemic injury. Gangrene of extremities has been rarely reported.

Overdoses or conventional doses in hypersensitive persons (e.g., hyperthyroid patients) cause severe hypertension with violent headache, photophobia, stabbing retrosternal pain, pallor, intense sweating, and vomiting.

What is the dosage for Levophed?

Norepinephrine Bitartrate Injection is a concentrated, potent drug which must be diluted in dextrose containing solutions prior to infusion. An infusion of Levophed should be given into a large vein.

Restoration Of Blood Pressure In Acute Hypotensive States

  • Blood volume depletion should always be corrected as fully as possible before any vasopressor is administered.
  • When, as an emergency measure, intraaortic pressures must be maintained to prevent cerebral or coronary artery ischemia, Levophed can be administered before and concurrently with blood volume replacement.
Diluent
  • Levophed should be diluted in 5 percent dextrose injection or 5 percent dextrose and sodium chloride injections.
  • These dextrose containing fluids are protection against significant loss of potency due to oxidation.
  • Administration in saline solution alone is not recommended.
  • Whole blood or plasma, if indicated to increase blood volume, should be administered separately (for example, by use of a Y-tube and individual containers if given simultaneously).
Average Dosage
  • Add a 4 mL ampul (4 mg) of Levophed to 1,000 mL of a 5 percent dextrose containing solution. Each mL of this dilution contains 4 mcg of the base of Levophed.
  • Give this solution by intravenous infusion. Insert a plastic intravenous catheter through a suitable bore needle well advanced centrally into the vein and securely fixed with adhesive tape, avoiding, if possible, a catheter tie-in technique as this promotes stasis.
  • An IV drip chamber or other suitable metering device is essential to permit an accurate estimation of the rate of flow in drops per minute. After observing the response to an initial dose of 2 mL to 3 mL (from 8 mcg to 12 mcg of base) per minute, adjust the rate of flow to establish and maintain a low normal blood pressure (usually 80 mm Hg to 100 mm Hg systolic) sufficient to maintain the circulation to vital organs.
  • In previously hypertensive patients, it is recommended that the blood pressure should be raised no higher than 40 mm Hg below the preexisting systolic pressure. The average maintenance dose ranges from 0.5 mL to 1 mL per minute (from 2 mcg to 4 mcg of base).
High Dosage
  • Great individual variation occurs in the dose required to attain and maintain an adequate blood pressure.
  •  In all cases, dosage of Levophed should be titrated according to the response of the patient.
  • Occasionally much larger or even enormous daily doses (as high as 68 mg base or 17 ampuls) may be necessary if the patient remains hypotensive, but occult blood volume depletion should always be suspected and corrected when present.
  • Central venous pressure monitoring is usually helpful in detecting and treating this situation.
Fluid Intake
  • The degree of dilution depends on clinical fluid volume requirements.
  • If large volumes of fluid (dextrose) are needed at a flow rate that would involve an excessive dose of the pressor agent per unit of time, a solution more dilute than 4 mcg per mL should be used.
  • On the other hand, when large volumes of fluid are clinically undesirable, a concentration greater than 4 mcg per mL may be necessary.
Duration Of Therapy
  • The infusion should be continued until adequate blood pressure and tissue perfusion are maintained without therapy.
  • Infusions of Levophed should be reduced gradually, avoiding abrupt withdrawal.
  • In some of the reported cases of vascular collapse due to acute myocardial infarction, treatment was required for up to six days.

Adjunctive Treatment In Cardiac Arrest

  • Infusions of Levophed are usually administered intravenously during cardiac resuscitation to restore and maintain an adequate blood pressure after an effective heartbeat and ventilation have been established by other means. [Levophed's powerful beta-adrenergic stimulating action is also thought to increase the strength and effectiveness of systolic contractions once they occur.]
Average Dosage
  • To maintain systemic blood pressure during the management of cardiac arrest, Levophed is used in the same manner as described under Restoration of Blood Pressure in Acute ¬†Hypotensive States.
  • Parenteral drug products should be inspected visually for particulate matter and discoloration prior to use, whenever solution and container permit.
  • Do not use the solution if its color is pinkish or darker than slightly yellow or if it contains a precipitate.
  • Avoid contact with iron salts, alkalis, or oxidizing agents.

SLIDESHOW

Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension): Symptoms, Signs, Causes See Slideshow

What drugs interact with Levophed?

Cyclopropane and halothane anesthetics increase cardiac autonomic irritability and therefore seem to sensitize the myocardium to the action of intravenously administered epinephrine or norepinephrine. Hence, the use of Levophed during cyclopropane and halothane anesthesia is generally considered contraindicated because of the risk of producing ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation. The same type of cardiac arrhythmias may result from the use of Levophed in patients with profound hypoxia or hypercarbia.

Levophed should be used with extreme caution in patients receiving monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) or antidepressants of the triptyline or imipramine types, because severe, prolonged hypertension may result.

Is Levophed safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding?

  • It is also not known whether Levophed can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman or can affect reproduction capacity.
  • Levophed should be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed.
  • It is not known whether this drug is excreted in human milk.
  • Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, caution should be exercised when Levophed is administered to a nursing woman.

Summary

Levophed (norepinephrine bitartrate) injection is a prescription medication used for blood pressure control in certain acute hypotensive states (e.g., pheochromocytomectomy, sympathectomy, poliomyelitis, spinal anesthesia, myocardial infarction, septicemia, blood transfusion, and drug reactions) as an adjunct in the treatment of cardiac arrest and profound hypotension.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/2/2020
References
All sections courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration