Purpose: Etomidate and ketamine are hemodynamically stable induction agents often used to sedate critically ill patients during emergency endotracheal intubation. In 2015, quality improvement data from our hospital suggested a survival benefit at Day 7 from avoidance of etomidate in critically ill patients during emergency intubation. In this clinical trial, we hypothesized that randomization to ketamine instead of etomidate would be associated with Day 7 survival after emergency endotracheal intubation. Methods: A prospective, randomized, open-label, parallel assignment, single-center clinical trial performed by an anesthesiology-based Airway Team under emergent circumstances at one high-volume medical center in the United States. 801 critically ill patients requiring emergency intubation were randomly assigned 1:1 by computer-generated, pre-randomized sealed envelopes to receive etomidate (0.2–0.3 mg/kg, n = 400) or ketamine (1–2 mg/kg, n = 401) for sedation prior to intubation. The pre-specified primary endpoint of the trial was Day 7 survival. Secondary endpoints included Day 28 survival. Results: Of the 801 enrolled patients, 396 were analyzed in the etomidate arm, and 395 in the ketamine arm. Day 7 survival was significantly lower in the etomidate arm than in the ketamine arm (77.3% versus 85.1%, difference − 7.8, 95% confidence interval − 13, − 2.4, p = 0.005). Day 28 survival rates for the two groups were not significantly different (etomidate 64.1%, ketamine 66.8%, difference − 2.7, 95% confidence interval − 9.3, 3.9, p = 0.294). Conclusion: While the primary outcome of Day 7 survival was greater in patients randomized to ketamine, there was no significant difference in survival by Day 28.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-91
Number of pages14
JournalIntensive Care Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Airway management
  • Anesthetic induction medication
  • Emergency endotracheal intubation
  • Etomidate
  • Ketamine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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