RATIONALE Fever control may improve vascular tone and decrease oxygen consumption, but fever may contribute to combat infection. OBJECTIVES To determine whether fever control by external cooling diminishes vasopressor requirements in septic shock. METHODS In a multicenter randomized controlled trial, febrile patients with septic shock requiring vasopressors, mechanical ventilation, and sedation were allocated to external cooling (n = 101) to achieve normothermia (36.5-37°C) for 48 hours or no external cooling (n = 99). Vasopressors were tapered to maintain the same blood pressure target in the two groups. The primary endpoint was the number of patients with a 50% decrease in baseline vasopressor dose after 48 hours. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS Body temperature was significantly lower in the cooling group after 2 hours of treatment (36.8 ± 0.7 vs. 38.4 ± 1.1°C; P < 0.01). A 50% vasopressor dose decrease was significantly more common with external cooling from 12 hours of treatment (54 vs. 20%; absolute difference, 34%; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], -46 to -21; P < 0.001) but not at 48 hours (72 vs. 61%; absolute difference, 11%; 95% CI, -23 to 2). Shock reversal during the intensive care unit stay was significantly more common with cooling (86 vs. 73%; absolute difference, 13%; 95% CI, 2 to 25; P = 0.021). Day-14 mortality was significantly lower in the cooling group (19 vs. 34%; absolute difference, -16%; 95% CI, -28 to -4; P = 0.013). CONCLUSIONS In this study, fever control using external cooling was safe and decreased vasopressor requirements and early mortality in septic shock.
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