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Septic shock is associated with vasopressin deficiency and a hypersensitivity to its exogenous administration. The goal of the current study was to determine whether short-term vasopressin infusion in patients experiencing severe septic shock has a vasopressor sparing effect while maintaining hemodynamic stability and adequate end-organ perfusion.Patients experiencing septic shock that required high-dose vasopressor support were randomized to a double-blinded 4-h infusion of either norepinephrine (n = 11) or vasopressin (n = 13), and open-label vasopressors were titrated to maintain blood pressure. To assess end-organ perfusion, urine output and creatinine clearance, gastric mucosal carbon dioxide tension, and electrocardiogram ST segment position were measured.Patients randomized to norepinephrine went from a median prestudy norepinephrine infusion of 20.0 μg/min to a blinded infusion of 17.0 μg/min at 4 h, whereas those randomized to vasopressin went from a median prestudy norepinephrine infusion of 25.0 μg/min to 5.3 μg/min at 4 h (P < 0.001). Mean arterial pressure and cardiac index were maintained in both groups. Urine output did not change in the norepinephrine group (median, 25 to 15 ml/h) but increased substantially in the vasopressin group (median, 32.5 to 65 ml/h;P < 0.05). Similarly, creatinine clearance did not change in the norepinephrine group but increased by 75% in the vasopressin group (P < 0.05). Gastric mucosal carbon dioxide tension and electrocardiogram ST segments did not change significantly in either group.The authors conclude that short-term vasopressin infusion spared conventional vasopressor use and improved some measures of renal function in patients with severe septic shock.