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Shock. 2005 Jun;23(6):516-20.

Fever control in septic shock: beneficial or harmful?

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  • 1Department of Intensive Care, Erasme Hospital, Free University of Brussels, Brussels, 1070-B, Belgium.


The beneficial effects of interventions to control fever in sepsis are controversial. We investigated whether the use of acetaminophen and external cooling is beneficial to control fever in septic shock. We studied 24 fasted, anesthetized, invasively monitored, mechanically ventilated female sheep (27.0 +/- 4.6 kg) that received 0.5 g/kg body weight of feces into the abdominal cavity to induce sepsis. Ringer's lactate (RL) was titrated to maintain pulmonary artery occlusion pressure (PAOP) at baseline levels throughout the experimental period. During the 2 h after the surgical operation, animals were placed in the hypothermia group if their temperature fell below 36.0 degrees C; the other animals were randomized to three groups: high fever (T > 39.0 degrees C), mild fever (37.5 degrees C < T < 38.5 degrees C), and normothermia (36.0 degrees C < T < 37.0 degrees C). The administration of 25 mg/kg acetaminophen every 4 to 6 h combined with external cooling (ice pad) was used to control core temperature in these three groups. The PaO2/FiO2 ratio was higher and blood lactate concentration was lower in the high fever than in the other groups (P < 0.01 and 0.05, respectively). Survival time was longer in the high fever group (25.2 +/- 3.0 h) than in the mild fever (17.7 +/- 3.5 h), normothermia (16.0 +/- 1.9 h), and hypothermia (18.5 +/- 2.5 h) groups (P < 0.05 for all). Plasma heat shock protein (HSP) 70 levels were higher in the two fever groups than in the other groups (P < 0.05). In this clinically relevant septic shock model, the febrile response thus resulted in better respiratory function, lower blood lactate concentration, and prolonged survival time. Antipyretic interventions including acetaminophen and external cooling were associated with lower circulating HSP70 levels. These data challenge the temperature control practices often used routinely in acutely ill patients.

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