Medically reviewed on September 10, 2018
(e FED rin)
- Ephedrine Sulfate
Excipient information presented when available (limited, particularly for generics); consult specific product labeling. [DSC] = Discontinued product
Capsule, Oral, as sulfate:
Generic: 25 mg [DSC]
Solution, Injection, as sulfate:
Generic: 50 mg/mL (1 mL)
Solution, Injection, as sulfate [preservative free]:
Generic: 50 mg/mL (1 mL)
Solution, Intravenous, as sulfate:
Akovaz: 50 mg/mL (1 mL)
Generic: 50 mg/mL (1 mL)
Solution, Intravenous, as sulfate [preservative free]:
Generic: 50 mg/mL (1 mL)
Brand Names: U.S.
- Alpha/Beta Agonist
Releases tissue stores of norepinephrine and thereby produces an alpha- and beta-adrenergic stimulation; longer-acting and less potent than epinephrine
IV: Rapid, complete
Minimally hepatic; metabolites include p-hydroxyephedrine, p-hydroxynorephedrine, norephedrine
Urine (primarily unchanged; dependent upon urinary pH with greatest excretion in acid pH)
Onset of Action
IM: Within 10 to 20 minutes.
Duration of Action
Pressor/cardiac effects: SubQ: 1 hour
Dependent upon urinary pH; Urine pH 5: ~3 hours; Urine pH 6.3: ~6 hours
Special Populations: Renal Function Impairment
Elimination half-life may be increased.
Use: Labeled Indications
Hypotension, anesthesia-induced: Treatment of anesthesia-induced hypotension
Note: The use of ephedrine for the treatment of acute bronchospasm, Stokes-Adams syndrome (ie, presyncope/syncope) with complete heart block, narcolepsy, depression, or myasthenia gravis has fallen out of favor given the availability of more effective agents for these conditions.
Off Label Uses
Postoperative nausea and vomiting (prevention)
Data from two randomized controlled studies suggests that patients given post-operative ephedrine had lower postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) scores early in the post-operative period without significant hemodynamic changes [Rothenberg 1991], [Hagemann 2000]. Additional trials may be necessary to further define the role of ephedrine in this setting.
Based on the Society of Ambulatory Anesthesia (SAMBA) guidelines for the management of PONV, ephedrine is a recommended pharmacologic antiemetic among other agents for prophylaxis in adults at moderate to severe risk for PONV. Other agents include 5HT3 antagonists (eg, ondansetron, granisetron), steroids (eg, dexamethasone), phenothiazines (eg, promethazine, prochlorperazine), butyrophenones (eg, droperidol, haloperidol), antihistamines (eg, dimenhydrinate), and anticholinergics (eg, transdermal scopolamine) [SAMBA [Gan 2007]].
Hypersensitivity to ephedrine, other sympathomimetics, or any component of the formulation; angle-closure glaucoma; coadministration with myocardial sensitizing anesthetics (cyclopropane or halothane).
Hypotension, anesthesia-induced: IV: 5 to 25 mg/dose slow IV push; repeat as needed to maintain blood pressure (maximum total dose: 50 mg)
Postoperative nausea and vomiting (prevention) (off-label use): IM: 0.5 mg/kg at the end of surgery (Hagemann 2000; SAMBA [Gan 2007])
Refer to adult dosing.
Hypotension, anesthesia induced: Infants, Children, and Adolescents ≤15 years (off-label dose): IV: 0.1 to 0.3 mg/kg/dose slow IV push; repeat as needed to maintain blood pressure; maximum dose: 25 mg (Atchabahian 2013; Taguchi 1996).
Dosing: Renal Impairment
There are no dosage adjustments provided in the manufacturer's labeling; use with caution.
Dosing: Hepatic Impairment
There are no dosage adjustments provided in the manufacturer's labeling.
Pediatric: IV: In a pediatric hypotension trial, ephedrine doses of 0.1 mg/kg and 0.2 mg/kg were diluted to 1 mg/mL and 2 mg/mL, respectively (Taguchi 1996).
IV: Dilute to 5 or 10 mg/mL with D5W or NS.
IM: For PONV (off-label use), dilute with NS (Hagemann 2000).
Administer diluted solution as a slow IV push. For PONV (off-label use), administer IM (Hagemann 2000; SAMBA [Gan 2007]).
Store at room temperature; protect from light.
Alkalinizing Agents: May increase the serum concentration of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists (Indirect-Acting). Monitor therapy
Alpha1-Blockers: May diminish the vasoconstricting effect of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists. Similarly, Alpha-/Beta-Agonists may antagonize Alpha1-Blocker vasodilation. Monitor therapy
AtoMOXetine: May enhance the hypertensive effect of Sympathomimetics. AtoMOXetine may enhance the tachycardic effect of Sympathomimetics. Monitor therapy
Atropine (Systemic): May enhance the therapeutic effect of EPHEDrine (Systemic). Monitor therapy
Benzylpenicilloyl Polylysine: Alpha-/Beta-Agonists may diminish the diagnostic effect of Benzylpenicilloyl Polylysine. Management: Consider use of a histamine skin test as a positive control to assess a patient's ability to mount a wheal and flare response. Consider therapy modification
Cannabinoid-Containing Products: May enhance the tachycardic effect of Sympathomimetics. Exceptions: Cannabidiol. Monitor therapy
Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors: May increase the serum concentration of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists (Indirect-Acting). Monitor therapy
Cardiac Glycosides: EPHEDrine (Systemic) may enhance the arrhythmogenic effect of Cardiac Glycosides. Monitor therapy
Chloroprocaine: May enhance the hypertensive effect of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists. Monitor therapy
CloNIDine: May enhance the therapeutic effect of EPHEDrine (Systemic). Monitor therapy
CloZAPine: May diminish the therapeutic effect of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists. Monitor therapy
Cocaine (Topical): May enhance the hypertensive effect of Sympathomimetics. Management: Consider alternatives to use of this combination when possible. Monitor closely for substantially increased blood pressure or heart rate and for any evidence of myocardial ischemia with concurrent use. Consider therapy modification
Doxofylline: Sympathomimetics may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Doxofylline. Monitor therapy
Droxidopa: EPHEDrine (Systemic) may enhance the hypertensive effect of Droxidopa. Monitor therapy
Ergot Derivatives: May enhance the hypertensive effect of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists. Ergot Derivatives may enhance the vasoconstricting effect of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists. Exceptions: Ergoloid Mesylates; Nicergoline. Avoid combination
FentaNYL: Alpha-/Beta-Agonists (Indirect-Acting) may decrease the serum concentration of FentaNYL. Specifically, fentanyl nasal spray serum concentrations may decrease and onset of effect may be delayed. Monitor therapy
Guanethidine: May enhance the arrhythmogenic effect of Sympathomimetics. Guanethidine may enhance the hypertensive effect of Sympathomimetics. Monitor therapy
Hyaluronidase: May enhance the vasoconstricting effect of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists. Management: Avoid the use of hyaluronidase to enhance dispersion or absorption of alpha-/beta-agonists. Use of hyaluronidase for other purposes in patients receiving alpha-/beta-agonists may be considered as clinically indicated. Consider therapy modification
Inhalational Anesthetics: EPHEDrine (Systemic) may enhance the arrhythmogenic effect of Inhalational Anesthetics. Avoid combination
Iobenguane Radiopharmaceutical Products: Alpha-/Beta-Agonists (Indirect-Acting) may diminish the therapeutic effect of Iobenguane Radiopharmaceutical Products. Management: Discontinue all drugs that may inhibit or interfere with catecholamine transport or uptake for at least 5 biological half-lives before iobenguane administration. Do not administer these drugs until at least 7 days after each iobenguane dose. Avoid combination
Linezolid: May enhance the hypertensive effect of Sympathomimetics. Management: Reduce initial doses of sympathomimetic agents, and closely monitor for enhanced pressor response, in patients receiving linezolid. Specific dose adjustment recommendations are not presently available. Consider therapy modification
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors: May enhance the hypertensive effect of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists (Indirect-Acting). While linezolid is expected to interact via this mechanism, management recommendations differ from other monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Refer to linezolid specific monographs for details. Exceptions: Linezolid; Tedizolid. Avoid combination
Oxytocin: May enhance the hypertensive effect of EPHEDrine (Systemic). Monitor therapy
Propofol: May enhance the therapeutic effect of EPHEDrine (Systemic). Monitor therapy
QuiNIDine: EPHEDrine (Systemic) may diminish the therapeutic effect of QuiNIDine. QuiNIDine may diminish the therapeutic effect of EPHEDrine (Systemic). Monitor therapy
Rocuronium: EPHEDrine (Systemic) may enhance the therapeutic effect of Rocuronium. Monitor therapy
Serotonin/Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors: May enhance the tachycardic effect of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists. Serotonin/Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors may enhance the vasopressor effect of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists. Consider therapy modification
Spironolactone: May diminish the vasoconstricting effect of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists. Monitor therapy
Sympathomimetics: May enhance the adverse/toxic effect of other Sympathomimetics. Monitor therapy
Tedizolid: May enhance the hypertensive effect of Sympathomimetics. Tedizolid may enhance the tachycardic effect of Sympathomimetics. Monitor therapy
Tricyclic Antidepressants: May enhance the vasopressor effect of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists (Direct-Acting). Management: Avoid, if possible, the use of direct-acting alpha-/beta-agonists in patients receiving tricyclic antidepressants. If combined, monitor for evidence of increased pressor effects and consider reductions in initial dosages of the alpha-/beta-agonist. Consider therapy modification
Urinary Acidifying Agents: May decrease the serum concentration of Alpha-/Beta-Agonists (Indirect-Acting). Monitor therapy
Can cause a false-positive amphetamine EMIT assay
Frequency not defined.
Cardiovascular: Angina pectoris, bradycardia, cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, palpitations, pulse irregularity, tachycardia, ventricular ectopy, visceral vasoconstriction (renal)
Central nervous system: Anxiety, confusion, delirium, dizziness, hallucination, headache, insomnia, intracranial hemorrhage, nervousness, precordial pain, restlessness, tension, vertigo
Dermatologic: Diaphoresis, pallor
Gastrointestinal: Anorexia, nausea, vomiting
Genitourinary: Dysuria, oliguria, urinary retention (males with prostatism)
Neuromuscular & skeletal: Tremor, vesicle sphincter spasm, weakness
Concerns related to adverse effects:
• Cardiovascular effects: May cause hypertension resulting in intracranial hemorrhage. May also induce anginal pain in patients with coronary insufficiency or ischemic heart disease and induce potentially fatal arrhythmias in patients with heart disease or who are receiving drugs that sensitize the myocardium.
• Urine output: Constriction of renal blood vessels may occur, decreasing urine output.
• Cardiovascular disease: Ephedrine should not ordinarily be used where vasopressor drugs may be contraindicated, such as hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders (eg angina pectoris, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias); use with caution.
• Diabetes: Ephedrine should not ordinarily be used in cases where vasopressor drugs may be contraindicated, such as diabetes; use with caution.
• Prostatic hyperplasia/urinary stricture: Use with caution in patients with prostatic hyperplasia and/or urinary stricture.
• Renal impairment: Use with caution in patients with renal impairment; increased elimination half-life may occur. Carefully monitor patients with renal impairment for adverse reactions.
• Thyroid dysfunction: Ephedrine should not ordinarily be used where vasopressor drugs may be contraindicated, such as thyrotoxicosis. Use with caution in patients with thyroid dysfunction.
• Vasomotor symptoms: Use with caution in patients with unstable vasomotor symptoms.
Concurrent drug therapy issues:
• Drug-drug interactions: Potentially significant interactions may exist, requiring dose or frequency adjustment, additional monitoring, and/or selection of alternative therapy. Consult drug interactions database for more detailed information.
• Elderly: Use with caution in the elderly.
Dosage form specific issues:
• Injectable: Blood volume depletion should be corrected before IV therapy is instituted.
• Bronchodilator use: Avoid as a bronchodilator; ephedrine is generally not used as a bronchodilator since other beta2 agonists are less toxic.
• Long-term use: Prolonged use may cause anxiety and symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia (eg, tachycardia, poor nutrition and hygiene, fever, cold sweat and dilated pupils).
• Tolerance: Tachyphylaxis and tolerance may develop with repeated, prolonged, or excessive administration; temporary cessation of therapy restores its effectiveness.
Blood pressure, pulse, respiratory symptoms; monitor patients with renal impairment for adverse reactions.
Pregnancy Risk Factor
Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted. Ephedrine crosses the placenta (Hughes, 1985). Ephedrine injection is used at delivery for the prevention and/or treatment of maternal hypotension associated with spinal anesthesia in women undergoing cesarean section (ASA, 2007). Serious postpartum hypertension and possibly stroke may occur if administered with oxytocic medications. Metabolic acidosis has been reported in neonates following maternal use of ephedrine; monitor.
• Discuss specific use of drug and side effects with patient as it relates to treatment. (HCAHPS: During this hospital stay, were you given any medicine that you had not taken before? Before giving you any new medicine, how often did hospital staff tell you what the medicine was for? How often did hospital staff describe possible side effects in a way you could understand?)
• Patient may experience tremors, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, or headache. Have patient report immediately to prescriber severe headache, vision changes, angina, tachycardia, abnormal heartbeat, severe dizziness, passing out, severe anxiety, or urinary retention (HCAHPS).
• Educate patient about signs of a significant reaction (eg, wheezing; chest tightness; fever; itching; bad cough; blue skin color; seizures; or swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat). Note: This is not a comprehensive list of all side effects. Patient should consult prescriber for additional questions.
Intended Use and Disclaimer: Should not be printed and given to patients. This information is intended to serve as a concise initial reference for health care professionals to use when discussing medications with a patient. You must ultimately rely on your own discretion, experience, and judgment in diagnosing, treating, and advising patients.
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- Drug class: decongestants
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