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Emergency Medicine Executive Summary

N-Acetylcisteine (NAC) is a mucolytic, antioxidant and a glutathione-inducer. It is positioned as the cornerstone antidote for the prevention and treatment of liver toxicity secondary to acetaminophen (APAP) overdose (6, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16), with US-FDA approval for IV, PO and effervescent tablets (9, 13, 14).

  • Adult and Pediatric dose for acetaminophen overdose: oral administration, 18 doses total.

  • Loading dose: 140mg/kg PO.

  • Dose 2 to 17: repeated doses every 4 hours of 70mg/kg PO.

Emergency Medicine Excecutive Summary

Fibrin-specific Tissue Plasminogen Activator (fibrinolytic) is widely accepted for emergency revascularization in acute myocardial infarction (MI), high risk acute pulmonary embolism (PE), and acute ischemic stroke (AIS)(1, 2, 3). In emergency medicine it is also used in intermediate-high risk PE and cardiac arrest when there is a high suspicion of MI or PE as the cause, in both scenarios the decision should be taken cautiously and in very selected cases (2, 4, 10).

Always seriously consider the contraindications and balance the risk of intracranial and other major bleeding events versus the benefit of the therapy. Fibrinolysis is an intervention that should be decided -or at least supported- by a specialist (emergency medicine, neurologist, cardiologist, intensivist).

Dosing Summary

Acute Coronary Syndrome with ST elevation (<12 hours)

FDA approved.

Adult dose:

  • ≤67kg: 15mg bolus + 0.75mg/kg in next 30 min

  • >67kg: 15 mg bolus + 50 mg in 30 min + 35 mg in 60 min

Acute Ischemic Stroke (<4.5 hours)

FDA approved for <3 hours after symptom onset (1996), Universally accepted use in <4.5 hours.
Adult dose:

  • <100kg: 0.09mg/kg bolus + 0.81mg/kg 60min

  • >100kg: 9mg bolus + 81mg 60min

Pulmonary Embolism

FDA approved.

Adult dose:

  • Intermediate risk: 50mg in 2 hrs

  • High risk: 100mg in 2 hrs

  • Cardiac arrest: 50mg bolus + 50mg if no ROSC in 15 min

Emergency Medicine Executive Summary

Etomidate is one of the most used and preferred hypnotic agents in the Emergency Department (ED) for Rapid Sequence Intubation (RSI)(29), despite the US-FDA pending label for this indication.

  • Etomidate acts on GABA receptors moderating the activity of chloride channels; it makes neurons less excitable without any major cardiovascular impact. This feature suits etomidate for the great majority of emergency scenarios in which advanced airway management is required.

  • Its use in sepsis has been challenged because of the dose-dependent adrenal inhibition of corticosteroid synthesis, therefore only a single bolus dose is recommended for induction –not as a maintenance infusion– but to minimize adrenal suppression.

  • Myoclonic movements are a common adverse effect; they are observed for 1 to 3 minutes and cease spontaneously. In practice, the movements usually stop shortly after neuromuscular blockage and lack any clinical significance.

Pharmacology for a single bolus administration (23,28,29):

  • Onset: 15-45 seg

  • Time to Peak Effect: 45 seg

  • Duration of hypnotic effect: 3-12 min

  • Half life: 2-5h


  • Adult dose for rapid sequence intubation:
    0.3mg/kg IV (total body weight).
    Consider a lower dose of 0.2mg/kg in profound shock.

Emergency Medicine Executive Summary

Lorazepam is an intermediate acting benzodiazepine (BZD) –a GABA receptor enhancer– with CNS depressant effects including sedative, hypnotic, skeletal muscle relaxing and anticonvulsant activity. It can be administered either by intravenous, intramuscular, sublingual or oral routes. Along with midazolam and clonazepam, lorazepam is one of the most frequently indicated BZDs in the ED.

Sedation timing with single 2-4mg dose:

  • Intravenous

Onset (IV): 5-10 minutes*

Peak Effect (IV): 30 minutes

Duration (IV): 2-6 hours

(*shorter to terminate seizures)

  • Intramuscular

Onset (IM) 15 minutes

Peak Effect (IM) 60 minutes

Duration (IM) 6-8 hours


  • Adult dose for status epilepticus:
    0.1mg/kg IV (max 4mg/dose).
    Repeat every 5-10 min until the crisis has ceased.
    Consider initiating an antiepileptic if a second lorazepam dose is required.

  • Adult dose for undifferentiated agitation:
    2-4mg sublingual, IV or IM as needed (if severely agitated, IM route is prefered).
    Repeat every 20-30 min if necessary.
    The most adequate conduct is usually to combine lorazepam with a first generation antipsychotic (eg. haloperidol, droperidol).

  • Acute anxiety disorder:
    0.5-2mg sublingual, PO or IV as needed.
    Repeat every 20-30 minutes if necessary.

Emergency Medicine Executive Summary

Norepinephrine (NE) is used for hemodynamic support frequently as a first-line vasopressor with the exception of anaphylaxis (epinephrine) and post cardiac arrest care (epinephrine). Consider using noradrenaline in combination with inodilator drugs in cardiogenic shock.

  • Adult dose for shock:
    Calculate with total body weight.
    Norepinephrine 0.01-0.3 ug/kg/min IV.
    Usually started at 0.05 ug/kg/min IV.

Emergency Medicine Executive Summary

Olanzapine is a second generation (atypical) antipsychotic with a potent antagonism of serotonin 5-HT2A, 5-HT2C, dopamine D1-4, histamine H1 and alpha1-adrenergic receptors. It also has a moderate antagonism of muscarinic M1-5 receptors, as well as a weak agonism to GABA-A, BZD and beta-adrenergic receptors.

In the ED, olanzapine is frequently indicated as a first-line antipsychotic for acute agitation associated with psychiatric disorders (US FDA and EMA approved for agitation in individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder)(7, 9). Agitation in the ED is a very complex situation that includes a variety of dissimilar scenarios with a wide range of therapeutic options. Many clinical guidelines have been proposed with substantial differences between them; as emergency physicians, it is of great importance to be familiarized with the available therapeutic arsenal for agitation, such as haloperidol, droperidol, benzodiazepines, propofol, ketamine, etc.

  • Adult dose for severe agitation:
    5 to 10mg IM, repeated every 20 min if necessary, with a maximum of 30mg/day for intramuscular administration.

Emergency Medicine Executive Summary

Phentolamine is a vasodilator used to prevent tissue necrosis caused by extravasated catecholamine infusions (epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, etc). Available in the US. Limited stock in Canada. Unavailable in Chile.

  • Adult dose:
    5-10mg diluted in 10-20ml of NaCl 0.9% subcutaneous immediately after extravasation (use within 12 hours).

Acute Myocardial Infarction with ST elevation (STEMI <12hrs)

FDA approved, 2000. Indicated when anticipated STEMI diagnosis to Percutaneous Coronary Intervention-mediated reperfusion time is >120min.

Adult dose (IV ,bolus):

  • <60 kg 30mg

  • 60 - 69 kg 35mg

  • 70 - 79 kg 40mg

  • 80 - 89 kg 45mg

  • ≥90 kg 50mg

Acute Ischemic Stroke (AIS <4.5hrs)

Not FDA approved.

Adult dose (IV ,bolus):

  • AIS eligible for mechanical thrombectomy

    • 0.25mg/kg bolus (max 25mg)

  • AIS with minor neurological impairment uneligible for a mechanical thrombectomy

    • 0.4mg/kg bolus

Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

Not FDA approved. Prefer alteplase for PE fibrinolytic therapy. If unavailable, consider tenecteplase.

Adult dose (IV, bolus):

  • <60 kg 30mg

  • 60 - 69 kg 35mg

  • 70 - 79 kg 40mg

  • 80 - 89 kg 45mg

  • ≥90 kg 50mg

Emergency Medicine Executive Summary

Tetanus Immune Globulin (TIG) is indicated for tetanus disease treatment and prophylaxis (the latter in individuals without updated or an unknown tetanus immunization who have suffered a contaminated or a tetanus-prone wound).

  • Adult dose:

  • Tetanus treatment:
    500 units IM with part of the dose infiltrated close to the source wound. Up to 6000 units can be used.

  • Tetanus prophylaxis:
    250 units IM (single dose).

Fibrinolytics Summary Table


  • 11/27/21 Etomidate extended version

  • 11/19/21 Lorazepam summary version

  • 10/01/21 Acetylcysteine for acetaminophen overdose, summary version

  • 09/05/21 Olanzapine for the agitated patient, summary version

  • 08/15/21 Fibrinolytics summary table

  • 08/10/21 Tenecteplase summary version

  • 07/29/21 Alteplase summary version

  • 07/17/21 Phentolamine (for vasopressor extravasation treatment)

  • 06/19/21 Tetanus Immune Globulin, extended version

  • 04/12/21 Norepinephrine, extended version

Links of interest:

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