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Ann Pharmacother. 1998 Oct;32(10):1053-9.

Role of propofol in refractory status epilepticus.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacy Practice, Albany College of Pharmacy, NY, USA.



To provide a review of the proposed mechanism of action, clinical efficacy, adverse effects, and therapeutic considerations associated with the use of propofol in the management of patients with refractory status epilepticus.


A MEDLINE database (January 1966-April 1998) was searched for literature pertaining to status epilepticus and propofol. Additional literature was obtained from the references of selected articles identified in the search. Information from all articles published in English was considered for inclusion in the article.


Propofol is a unique, nonbarbiturate, anesthetic agent possessing anticonvulsant properties, although the exact anticonvulsant mechanism is unknown. Several case reports and two small, open, uncontrolled studies have described the efficacy of propofol in refractory status epilepticus. Most of these clinical reports discuss the utility of propofol after traditional treatment regimens have failed or are not tolerated. Initiation of propofol usually resulted in termination of seizure activity and/or electroencephalographic burst suppression within seconds that was sustained during the drug's use. Additionally, propofol was well tolerated. Advantages of propofol compared with traditional barbiturate anesthetic agents include better cardiovascular tolerability and a more favorable pharmacokinetic profile, allowing for rapid assessment of efficacy and neurologic assessment upon drug withdrawal. Propofol has been associated with a variety of neuroexcitatory adverse events such as opisthotonos, muscle rigidity, and choreoathetoid movements. Additionally, although the data are inconclusive, propofol has also been reported to cause seizures.


Propofol has shown promising results in the management of refractory status epilepticus when traditional therapies have failed or were not tolerated; however, controlled clinical trials are needed to better assess the comparative efficacy, neurologic adverse effects, and clinical outcome to better define its role in refractory status epilepticus.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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