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Hamzaoui O. 1, Teboul J.-L. 2, 3
1 Hôpitaux Universitaires Paris-Sud, Hôpital Antoine Béclère, Clamart, France;
2 Hôpitaux Universitaires Paris-Sud, Hôpital de Bicêtre, Service de Réanimation Médicale, Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, France;
3 Université Paris-Sud, Faculté de Médecine Paris-Sud, Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, France
β-blockers are widely used to treat cardiovascular diseases and in the peri-operative period in selected patients. The main benefit in terms of morbidity and/or mortality of their use is believed to be linked to specific effects on myocardial oxygen supply/demand balance, to anti-arrhythmic effects and anti-inflammatory effects. Use of β-blockers in severe sepsis is still under debate and if any, their appropriate indications remain unclear. In this article, we analyze the recent literature addressing the metabolic, immuno-modulatory and hemodynamic effects of non cardio-selective and of cardio-selective β-blockers in experimental and human sepsis in order to help clarifying the potential place of these drugs in patients with severe sepsis. From this analysis, it appears that β-adrenoceptor blocking agents may represent a therapeutic approach in patients with severe sepsis, in whom catecholaminergic hyperactivity including excessive tachycardia is supposed to play an aggravating role. However, many questions about effectiveness, safety and cardio-selectivity of the drugs and about the appropriate target population remain partially unanswered. Recently, esmolol, a short-time acting β1-adrenoceptor blocker titrated to decrease heart rate below 95 beats/min was shown to exert beneficial effects in a monocentric randomized clinical trial including selected septic patients. Further large multicenter randomized trials are required to confirm the potential benefit of such a therapy in patients with severe sepsis.