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Safety and Efficacy of Clevidipine for Acute Blood Pressure Control

Mike O'Brien, PharmD |


Rapid and precise control of blood pressure is vital for patients with a hypertensive emergency or an acute stroke. Commonly, nicardipine is utilized in these situations, with nitroprusside being a less appealing alternative. The most recent AHA/ASA Acute Ischemic Stroke Guidelines, updated in 2019, also recommend clevidipine as a first-line antihypertensive option [1]. Clevidipine is a dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers, similar in mechanism to nicardipine and amlodipine. The main advantage of clevidipine over nicardipine is related to its pharmacokinetics (Table 1). Given its shorter half-life of elimination, clevidipine can be titrated every 1-2 minutes. Additionally, if hypotension does occur, stopping the clevidipine infusion allows blood pressure to rebound quickly.

Medication Onset Duration Half-Life
Clevidipine 2-4 mins 5-15 mins 1-15 mins
Nicardipine 10-20 mins 1-2 hours 2-4 hours
Nitroprusside 1-2 mins 1-10 mins 2 mins

Table 1: Pharmacokinetics of Common Antihypertensive Infusions [Micromedex; Lexicomp]


Most studies demonstrate equivalent outcomes between clevidipine and other agents (e.g., nicardipine, nitroprusside, nitroglycerin) [2-5]. The ECLIPSE trial is the largest to assess the safety and efficacy of clevidipine [6]. The authors randomized cardiac surgery patients to clevidipine, nicardipine, nitroprusside, or nitroglycerin and found no difference in the incidence of myocardial infarction, stroke, or renal dysfunction. They noted that mortality was higher in patients receiving nitroprusside vs clevidipine, but equivalent compared to the the other medications. Additionally, clevidipine treated patients had significantly fewer excursions outside the prespecified blood pressure range than patients treated with any of the other agents.


Clevidipine is formulated in a 20% lipid emulsion and packaged in a glass vial. This causes clevidipine to appear similar to propofol, which could lead to safety issues. Also, care should be taken when using both clevidipine and propofol concomitantly, especially at high doses, as both provide clinically significant amounts of lipids, so triglycerides should be monitored.

Bottom Line

Clevidipine is a safe and effective antihypertensive to use in patients that require rapid and strict blood pressure control, specifically in patients with an aortic dissection or an acute ischemic/hemorrhagic stroke.

Want to learn more about EM Pharmacology?

Read other articles in the EM Pharm Pearls Series and find previous pearls on the PharmERToxguy site.


  1. Powers WJ, Rabinstein AA, Ackerson T, et al. Guidelines for the early management of patients with acute ischemic stroke: 2019 update to the 2018 guidelines for the early management of acute ischemic stroke: a guideline for healthcare professionals from the american heart association/american stroke association. Stroke. 2019;50(12):e344-e418. doi: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000211. PMID: 31662037.
  2. Allison TA, Bowman S, Gulbis B, Hartman H, Schepcoff S, Lee K. Comparison of clevidipine and nicardipine for acute blood pressure reduction in patients with stroke. J Intensive Care Med. 2019;34(11-12):990-995. doi: 10.1177/0885066617724340. PMID: 28820038.
  3. Rosenfeldt Z, Conklen K, Jones B, Ferrill D, Deshpande M, Siddiqui FM. Comparison of nicardipine with clevidipine in the management of hypertension in acute cerebrovascular diseases. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2018;27(8):2067-2073. doi: 10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2018.03.001. PMID: 29627171.
  4. Ulici A, Jancik J, Lam TS, Reidt S, Calcaterra D, Cole JB. Clevidipine versus sodium nitroprusside in acute aortic dissection: A retrospective chart review. Am J Emerg Med. 2017;35(10):1514-1518. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2017.06.030. PMID: 28669696.
  5. Brehaut SS, Roche AM. Abstract W P65: Clevidipine Outperforms Other Agents in Emergent Acute Hypertension Treatment in Ischemic Stroke Pre-rt-PA. 2015;46:AWP65. doi: 10.1161/str.46.suppl_1.wp65.
  6. Aronson S, Dyke CM, Stierer KA, et al. The ECLIPSE trials: comparative studies of clevidipine to nitroglycerin, sodium nitroprusside, and nicardipine for acute hypertension treatment in cardiac surgery patients. Anesth Analg. 2008;107(4):1110-1121. doi:10.1213/ane.0b013e31818240db. PMID: 18806012.

Author information

Mike O'Brien, PharmD

Mike O'Brien, PharmD

ALiEM Series Editor, EM Pharm Pearls
EM Clinical Pharmacy Specialist
Massachusetts General Hospital

The post Safety and Efficacy of Clevidipine for Acute Blood Pressure Control appeared first on ALiEM.

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