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J Burn Care Rehabil. 2003 Nov-Dec;24(6):356-60.

Short-term propofol infusion as an adjunct to extubation in burned children.

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  • 1Shriners Burns Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Children who require intubation as a component of their burn management generally need heavy sedation, usually with a combination of opiate and benzodiazepine infusions with a target sensorium of light sleep. When extubation approaches, the need for sedation to prevent uncontrolled extubation can conflict with the desire to lighten sedation enough to ensure that airway protective reflexes are strong. The several hours' half-life of these medications can make this period of weaning challenging. Therefore, the hours preceding extubation are among the most difficult in which to ensure safe adequate sedation. The pharmacokinetics of propofol allow for the rapid emergence of a patient from deep sedation. We have had success with an extubation strategy using short-term propofol infusions in critically ill children. In this work, children were maintained on morphine and midazolam infusions per our unit protocol, escalating doses as required to maintain comfort. Approximately 8 hours before planned extubation, these infusions were decreased by approximately half and propofol infusion added to maintain a state of light sleep. Extubation was planned approximately 8 hours later to allow ample time for the chronically infused opiates and benzodiazepines to be metabolized down to the new steady-state level. Thirty minutes before planned extubation, propofol was stopped while morphine and midazolam infusions were maintained at the reduced level. When the children awakened from the propofol-induced state of light sleep, they were extubated while the reduced infusions of morphine and midazolam were maintained. These were subsequently weaned slowly, depending on the child's need for ongoing pain and anxiety medication, per our unit protocol to minimize the incidence of withdrawal symptoms. Data are shown in the text as mean +/- standard deviation. These 11 children (eight boys and three girls) had an average age of 6.6 +/- 5.6 years (range, 1.2-13 years), average weight of 36.9 +/- 28.7 kg (range, 9.3-95 kg), and burn size of 43 +/- 21.4% (range, 10-85%). Three children had sustained scald burns and eight had flame injuries with associated inhalation injury. They had been intubated for an average of 12.7 +/- 10.9 (range, 2-33 days). Morphine infusions immediately before the initiation of propofol averaged 0.26 +/- 0.31 mg/kg/hour (range, 0.04-1.29 mg/kg/hr) and midazolam averaged 0.15 +/- 0.16 mg/kg/hr (range, 0.06-0.65 mg/kg/hr). Morphine infusions after beginning propofol and at extubation averaged 0.16 +/- 0.16 (range, 0.04-0.65 mg/kg/hr) and midazolam averaged 0.09 +/- 0.08 mg/kg/hr (range, 0.02-0.32 mg/kg/hr). Propofol doses after initial titration during the first hour of infusion averaged 3.6 +/- 2.9 mg/kg/hr (range, 0.4-8.1 mg/kg/hr). Nine of the 11 children (82%) were successfully extubated on the first attempt. Two required reintubation for postextubation stridor 2 to 6 hours after extubation but were successfully extubated the next day after a short course of steroids, again using the same propofol technique. All were awake at extubation and went on to survive. Morphine and midazolam infusions were gradually weaned, and there were no withdrawal symptoms noted. Although prolonged (days) infusions of propofol have been associated with adverse cardiovascular complications in critically ill young children and should probably be avoided, short-term (in hours) use of the drug can facilitate smooth extubation.

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