Refractory septic shock is defined as persistently low mean arterial blood pressure despite volume resuscitation and titrated vasopressors/inotropes in patients with a proven or suspected infection and concomitant organ dysfunction. Its management typically requires high doses of catecholamines, which can induce significant adverse effects such as ischemia and arrhythmias. Angiotensin II (Ang II), a key product of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, is a vasopressor agent that could be used in conjunction with other vasopressors to stabilize critically ill patients during refractory septic shock, and reduce catecholamine requirements. However, very few clinical data are available to support Ang II administration in this setting. Here, we review the current literature on this topic to better understand the role of Ang II administration during refractory septic shock, differentiating experimental from clinical studies. We also consider the potential role of exogenous Ang II administration in specific organ dysfunction and possible pitfalls with Ang II in sepsis. Various issues remain unresolved and future studies should investigate important topics such as: the optimal dose and timing of Ang II administration, a comparison between Ang II and the other vasopressors (epinephrine; vasopressin), and Ang II effects on microcirculation.
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