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What is Esmolol?

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  • Written By: Debra Durkee
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 December 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Esmolol is a medication that is frequently administered to a patient during surgery. It helps to regulate the patient's heartbeat, and in turn has been found to also lower blood pressure. Available as a solution, it is generally administered by a health professional in a clinical setting.

The medication is usually administered to the patient via a continuous drip directly into a vein; in its raw form it is a white powder. When mixed as a solution, the medication needs to be continuously administered because it does not last long once in the body. Effects wear off quickly, sometimes in as little as half an hour.

Known as a beta-blocker, esmolol works by interfering with the signals that the nerves send to different parts of the body. A rapid, irregular heartbeat can be in response to a signal sent from the nerves to the heart, indicating an outside stimulus, such as the trauma of surgery, that requires the heart to beat faster. Once this signal is interrupted, the heart rate of the patient will be easier to regulate. When the heart is regulated, it works less and blood pressure is reduced and stable, allowing a more continuous, steady stream of blood circulating through the body.

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In some cases, the use of esmolol has been found to lower blood pressure too much. Symptoms such as lightheadedness or a dizzy feeling can result from this drop in blood pressure. As this is a common side effect, those being given the medication are typically monitored by health professionals for the duration of the treatment.

Although it is relatively rare, some individuals have also experienced cardiac failure when the body's response to the medication is extreme. There are often early warning signs that this condition is impending, and attending medical professionals will generally remove the esmolol drip. Since esmolol has such a short period of effectiveness once in the system, seeing the warning signs early and removing the medication is often enough to prevent the patient from going into full cardiac arrest.

Other side effects of esmolol can include headaches, congestion, respiratory depression and abdominal discomfort. These symptoms are generally rare, and in most cases have been reversed by the removal of the medication. Some prescription or herbal medications can make these side effects worse.

Some conditions can present the patient with an increased risk of dangerous side effects. These conditions include diabetes, low blood pressure, hypoglycemia, kidney disease and renal failure. Full disclosure to attending medical personnel can help prevent adverse reactions.

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