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Last Updated: October 9, 2020

Most of the hemodynamic recommendations below are similar to those previously published in the Surviving Sepsis Campaign: International Guidelines for Management of Sepsis and Septic Shock: 2016. Ultimately, patients with COVID-19 who require fluid resuscitation or hemodynamic management of shock should be treated and managed identically to patients with septic shock.1

COVID-19 patients who require fluid resuscitation or hemodynamic management of shock should be treated and managed for septic shock in accordance with other published guidelines, with the following exceptions.


  • For adults with COVID-19 and shock, the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel (the Panel) recommends using dynamic parameters, skin temperature, capillary refilling time, and/or lactate levels over static parameters to assess fluid responsiveness (BIIa).


No direct evidence addresses the optimal resuscitation strategy for patients with COVID-19 and shock. In a systematic review and meta-analysis of 13 non-COVID-19 randomized clinical trials (n = 1,652),2 dynamic assessment to guide fluid therapy reduced mortality (risk ratio 0.59; 95% CI, 0.42–0.83), intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay (weighted mean difference -1.16 days; 95% CI, -1.97 to -0.36), and duration of mechanical ventilation (weighted mean difference -2.98 hours; 95% CI, -5.08 to -0.89). Dynamic parameters used in these trials included stroke volume variation (SVV), pulse pressure variation (PPV), and stroke volume change with passive leg raise or fluid challenge. Passive leg raising, followed by PPV and SVV, appears to predict fluid responsiveness with the highest accuracy.3 The static parameters included components of early goal-directed therapy (e.g., central venous pressure, mean arterial pressure).

Resuscitation of non-COVID-19 patients with shock based on serum lactate levels has been summarized in a systematic review and meta-analysis of seven randomized clinical trials (n = 1,301). Compared with central venous oxygen saturation-guided therapy, early lactate clearance-directed therapy was associated with a reduction in mortality (relative ratio 0.68; 95% CI, 0.56–0.82), shorter length of ICU stay (mean difference -1.64 days; 95% CI, -3.23 to -0.05), and shorter duration of mechanical ventilation (mean difference -10.22  hours; 95% CI, -15.94 to -4.50).4


  • For the acute resuscitation of adults with COVID-19 and shock, the Panel recommends using buffered/balanced crystalloids over unbalanced crystalloids (BIIa).


A pragmatic randomized trial that compared balanced and unbalanced crystalloids in 15,802 critically ill adults found that the rate of the composite outcome of death, new renal-replacement therapy, or persistent renal dysfunction was lower in the balanced crystalloids group (OR 0.90; 95% CI, 0.82–0.99; P = 0.04).5 A secondary analysis compared outcomes in a subset of patients with sepsis (n = 1,641). Among the sepsis patients in the balanced crystalloids group, there were fewer deaths (aOR 0.74; 95% CI, 0.59–0.93; P = 0.01), as well as fewer days requiring vasopressors and renal replacement therapy.6 A subsequent meta-analysis of 21 randomized controlled trials (n = 20,213) that included the pragmatic trial cited above compared balanced crystalloids to 0.9% saline for resuscitation of critically ill adults and children and reported nonsignificant differences in hospital mortality (OR 0.91; 95% CI, 0.83–1.01) and acute kidney injury (OR 0.92; 95% CI, 0.84–1.00).7


  • For the acute resuscitation of adults with COVID-19 and shock, the Panel recommends against the initial use of albumin for resuscitation (BIIa).


A meta-analysis of 20 non-COVID-19 randomized controlled trials (n = 13,047) that compared the use of albumin or fresh-frozen plasma to crystalloids in critically ill patients found no difference in all-cause mortality,8 whereas a meta-analysis of 17 non-COVID-19 randomized controlled trials (n = 1,977) that compared the use of albumin to crystalloids specifically in patients with sepsis observed a reduction in mortality (OR 0.82; 95% CI, 0.67–1.0; P = 0.047).9 Given the higher cost of albumin and the lack of a definitive clinical benefit, the Panel recommends against the routine use of albumin for initial acute resuscitation of patients with COVID-19 and shock.

Additional Recommendations Based on General Principles of Critical Care

  • The Panel recommends against using hydroxyethyl starches for intravascular volume replacement in patients with sepsis or septic shock (AIIa).
  • The Panel recommends norepinephrine as the first-choice vasopressor (AIIa). The Panel recommends adding either vasopressin (up to 0.03 units/min) (BIIa) or epinephrine (CIIb) to norepinephrine to raise mean arterial pressure to target or adding vasopressin (up to 0.03 units/min) (CIIa) to decrease norepinephrine dosage.
  • When norepinephrine is available, the Panel recommends against using dopamine for patients with COVID-19 and shock (AIIa).
  • The Panel recommends against using low-dose dopamine for renal protection (BIIa).
  • The Panel recommends using dobutamine in patients who show evidence of cardiac dysfunction and persistent hypoperfusion despite adequate fluid loading and the use of vasopressor agents (BIII).
  • The Panel recommends that all patients who require vasopressors have an arterial catheter placed as soon as practical, if resources are available (BIII).
  • For adults with COVID-19 and refractory septic shock who are not receiving corticosteroids to treat their COVID-19, the Panel recommends using low-dose corticosteroid therapy (“shock-reversal”) over no corticosteroid therapy (BIIa).
  • A typical corticosteroid regimen in septic shock is intravenous hydrocortisone 200 mg per day administered either as an infusion or in intermittent doses. The duration of hydrocortisone therapy is usually a clinical decision.
  • Patients who are receiving corticosteroids for COVID-19 are receiving sufficient replacement therapy such that they do not require additional hydrocortisone.
  1. Rhodes A, Evans LE, Alhazzani W, et al. Surviving Sepsis Campaign: international guidelines for management of sepsis and septic shock: 2016. Crit Care Med. 2017;45(3):486-552. Available at:
  2. Bednarczyk JM, Fridfinnson JA, Kumar A, et al. Incorporating dynamic assessment of fluid responsiveness into goal-directed therapy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Crit Care Med. 2017;45(9):1538-1545. Available at:
  3. Bentzer P, Griesdale DE, Boyd J, MacLean K, Sirounis D, Ayas NT. Will this hemodynamically unstable patient respond to a bolus of intravenous fluids? JAMA. 2016;316(12):1298-1309. Available at:
  4. Pan J, Peng M, Liao C, Hu X, Wang A, Li X. Relative efficacy and safety of early lactate clearance-guided therapy resuscitation in patients with sepsis: a meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(8):e14453. Available at:
  5. Semler MW, Self WH, Wanderer JP, et al. Balanced crystalloids versus saline in critically ill adults. N Engl J Med. 2018;378(9):829-839. Available at:
  6. Brown RM, Wang L, Coston TD, et al. Balanced crystalloids versus saline in sepsis. A secondary analysis of the SMART clinical trial. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2019;200(12):1487-1495. Available at:
  7. Antequera Martin AM, Barea Mendoza JA, Muriel A, et al. Buffered solutions versus 0.9% saline for resuscitation in critically ill adults and children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019;7:CD012247. Available at:
  8. Lewis SR, Pritchard MW, Evans DJ, et al. Colloids versus crystalloids for fluid resuscitation in critically ill people. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;8:CD000567. Available at:
  9. Delaney AP, Dan A, McCaffrey J, Finfer S. The role of albumin as a resuscitation fluid for patients with sepsis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Crit Care Med. 2011;39(2):386-391. Available at: