Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Ann Emerg Med. 2003 Apr;41(4):546-58.

Droperidol, QT prolongation, and sudden death: what is the evidence?

Author information

  • 1Division of Medical Toxicology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA.



Droperidol is a butyrophenone commonly used as an antiemetic and antipsychotic in the United States since US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in 1970. Its labeling has recently been revised, with a black box warning for cases of QT prolongation leading to torsades de pointes and death. A black box warning is applied when serious adverse drug reactions are uncovered for medications. We sought to examine the evidence of a causal association suggested by the black box warning to aid clinicians in their risk-benefit analyses regarding further use of droperidol.


A literature search was undertaken to determine the evidence regarding the association between droperidol and QT prolongation or torsades de pointes. The evidence was then evaluated by using evidence-based medicine principles. In addition, a review of the FDA regulatory process is presented.


Three clinical studies, 1 published abstract, and 7 case reports were reviewed. Available postmarketing surveillance data (MedWatch reports) were also reviewed. Applying the criteria of evidence-based medicine and Hill's criteria, the evidence is not convincing for a causal relationship between therapeutic droperidol administration and life-threatening cardiac events.


The recent black box warning appears to have originated from postmarketing surveillance data rather than data reported in the peer-reviewed medical literature. Ongoing monitoring of drug safety and more definitive study appear appropriate.

Comment in

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk