Brian L Erstad

Brian L Erstad

Department Head, Pharmacy Practice-Science
Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Member of the Graduate Faculty
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Primary Department
(520) 626-4289

Work Summary

Brian Erstad’s research interests pertain to critical care medicine with an emphasis on patient safety and related outcomes research.

Research Interest

Brian L. Erstad, PharmD, FCCM, is currently a tenured professor and head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science. He is also a center investigator for the Center for Health Outcomes and PharmacoEconomics Research and a co-director for the Arizona Clinical and Translational Research Graduate Certificate Program. His clinical responsibilities are performed at Banner-University Medical Center Tucson.Dr. Erstad’s research interests pertain to critical care medicine with an emphasis on patient safety and related outcomes research. He has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.Dr. Erstad has served on the board of directors of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and on numerous committees and task forces for other organizations including AHRQ, USP, Society of Critical Care Medicine and the American College of Chest Physicians. He is currently an ad hoc member of the FDA’s Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee, a steering committee member of the United States Critical Illness and Injury Trials (USCIIT) Group, and treasurer of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy.


Patanwala, A. E., Amini, A., & Erstad, B. L. (2010). Use of hypertonic saline injection in trauma. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 67(22), 1920-1928.

PMID: 21048208;Abstract:

Purpose. The use of hypertonic saline injection in trauma patients is discussed. Summary. Patients with hemorrhage, burns, and traumatic brain injury (TBI) may develop hypovolemic shock and require resuscitation. Compared with conventional isotonic crystalloids, hypertonic saline has several advantages, including hemodynamic, immune-modulating, and antiinflammatory effects, for use in trauma patients for resuscitation. In addition, hypertonic saline is also used in patients with TBI to reduce intracranial pressure (ICP). Overall, studies have not shown a difference in mortality or other clinically important outcomes with the use of hypertonic saline for resuscitation in trauma patients; however, most of these studies were not adequately powered to show significant differences. A recent Cochrane review concluded that there is no evidence that hypertonic crystalloids are better than isotonic or near-isotonic crystalloids for fluid resuscitation in trauma patients. Two recent trials that were adequately powered to investigate a mortality endpoint were halted for futility. A few small randomized controlled studies found that hypertonic saline was more effective than mannitol as a hyperosmolar agent for ICP reduction. Recent guidelines from the American Burn Association have suggested that hypertonic saline may be used for burn shock resuscitation by experienced providers with close monitoring to avoid excessive hypernatremia. One of the main concerns with the use of hypertonic saline is its potential to cause central pontine myelinolysis due to a rapid increase in serum sodium levels. Conclusion. There is no evidence that hypertonic saline provides any additional benefit over isotonic crystalloid solutions for trauma resuscitation. Hypertonic saline may be more effective than mannitol at reducing ICP in patients with TBI. Copyright © 2010, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc. All rights reserved.

Erstad, B., Patanwala, A. E., Abarca, J., Huckleberry, Y., & Erstad, B. L. (2006). Pharmacologic management of constipation in the critically ill patient. Pharmacotherapy, 26(7).

To compare the effectiveness of common laxatives in producing a bowel movement in patients admitted to a medical intensive care unit (MICU).

Erstad, B. L. (1996). Using residency standards to prepare staff pharmacists for patient care activities.. American journal of health-system pharmacy : AJHP : official journal of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 53(22), 2696, 2699.
Duby, J. J., Erstad, B. L., Abarca, J., Camamo, J. M., Huckleberry, Y., & Bramblett, S. N. (2007). Impact of delayed initiation of erythropoietin in critically ill patients. BMC Blood Disorders, 7.


Background: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) use for anemia of critical illness at a practice site where delayed initiation is common. Methods: Retrospective medical record review involving patients treated with rHuEPO for anemia of critical illness. Those patients given rHuEPO or diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) prior to ICU admission were excluded. The primary endpoints were rHuEPO use and RBC transfusion patterns. Results: Complete data were collected for consecutive admissions of 126 patients. Average age (SD) and APACHE II score were 56.5 (18.6) years and 25 (7.8), respectively. The median ICU (IQR) and hospital length of stay (LOS) were 24 (11.25, 39) and 29 (17, 44.75) days, respectively. Treatment with rHuEPO was started an average of 12.5 +/- 10.5 days after ICU admission and given for 3.8 +/- 3.8 doses. Eighty percent of patients were transfused with an average total of 5.42 +/- 5.08 units received. RBC exposure inversely correlated with a lower mean hemoglobin response to rHuEPO. ICU LOS (p 2 = 0.37). Conclusion: Delayed initiation of rHuEPO for anemia of critical illness resulted in comparable hemoglobin and transfusion benefits. Future studies are needed to establish clinical benefit and role in therapy. RBC exposure may blunt the erythropoietic effects of rHuEPO, potentially frustrating benefits to those of greatest apparent need. © 2007 Duby et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Erstad, B. L. (1992). Serum albumin concentrations: Who needs them?. Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 26(9), 1134-1138.

PMID: 1421681;Abstract:

OBJECTIVE: To examine the multiple factors that influence serum albumin concentrations and to discuss settings in which the monitoring of such concentrations provides clinically useful information. DATA SOURCES: Original investigations, review articles, books, and abstracts published in English. STUDY SELECTION: Studies pertaining to factors affecting serum albumin concentration were chosen based on general applicability. Recommendations related to the appropriate monitoring of albumin concentrations were based on studies performed in the clinical setting with direct applicability to patient care. DATA EXTRACTION: Data on factors affecting serum albumin concentration were extracted from studies that resulted in similar conclusions regardless of assay technique. Appropriate indications for albumin monitoring were derived from studies demonstrating direct clinical relevance. DATA SYNTHESIS: A number of factors may influence serum albumin concentration and ultimately affect interpretation of the concentration. Serum albumin concentrations generally are useful in the institutional setting shortly after admission or preoperatively to determine patient prognosis. Albumin concentrations have limited merit for predicting the free fractions of various hormones, electrolytes, and drugs. When used as an indicator of nutritional support, albumin concentrations are most helpful when measured over longer periods in relatively stable patients. CONCLUSIONS: Serum albumin determinations should be limited to those situations in which the concentrations are likely to provide clinically useful information. Such situations are limited.