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Acad Emerg Med. 1996 Mar;3(3):234-8.

The use of propofol for sedation in the emergency department.

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University of Pittsburgh Affiliated Residency in Emergency Medicine, PA, USA.



To evaluate the effectiveness of propofol and fentanyl when used by emergency physicians (EPs) for systemic sedation and analgesia in the ED.


Over an eight-month period, a convenience sample of consenting patients at an urban teaching hospital ED who required sedation for painful procedures were enrolled in a descriptive study of therapeutic propofol sedation. After receiving 2 micrograms/kg of fentanyl i.v. the patients received a continuous infusion of propofol at 0.21 mg/kg/min i.v. to the desired level of sedation. A maintenance infusion of 3-6 mg/kg/hr was administered during the remainder of the procedure. Sedation time, total procedure time, and recovery time were recorded and the presence of side effects was noted. The patients and the physicians rated their satisfaction with the technique on a 100-mm visual analog scale. The patients were contacted at 24 hours for follow-up information.


Twenty patients (aged 19-62 years) received propofol infusion for procedures that included ten abscess incision and drainages, eight orthopedic reductions, one chest tube placement, and one wound exploration. The mean (+/- SD) total dose of propofol was 200 +/- 160 mg. The mean time to onset of sedation was 6.6 +/- 3.2 min, the mean procedure interval was 9.6 +/- 6.3 min, and the mean interval until recovery was 6.1 +/- 4.1 min. The median patient satisfaction score was 97 mm (range 40-100 mm); the median rating by physicians was 88 mm (range 4-100 mm). Side effects were noted in six patients: three had pain on injection, one had pain on injection and brief (< 1 min) hypotension (systolic blood pressure = 80 mm Hg), and two had apnea (< 30 sec). Seven patients had some recall of the procedure immediately afterwards, but only five had any recall at 24 hours. All 20 patients stated they would be willing to receive the same sedation again for a future procedure.


Propofol appears to be an effective agent to provide systemic sedation and analgesia when used in conjunction with fentanyl for procedures in the ED. Given its rapidity of onset and elimination, it may become a useful agent to EPs for i.v. sedation in the ED.

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