Propofol in paediatric anaesthesia

Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2003 Jun;16(3):285-90. doi: 10.1097/00001503-200306000-00008.


Purpose of review: In this review we intend to ascertain trends in propofol administration for paediatric anaesthesia and sedation.

Recent findings: Propofol is being 'discovered' by non-anaesthesiologist practitioners of paediatric sedation. However it appears that the drug is not infrequently administered alone for painful procedures, necessitating large doses that result in uncontrolled general anaesthesia with a high potential for adverse events. An elegant technique comprises small doses of short-acting opioid (e.g. fentanyl 1 mug/kg) with low-dose propofol infusion. This does not result in worsening of pre-existing right-to-left intracardiac shunts. The dilemma is to educate non-anaesthesiologists about propofol pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics and in particular about the advantages of combined drug therapy. A paediatric target-controlled system for propofol has undergone preliminary clinical evaluation and it is hoped that administration according to pharmacokinetic principles will refine administration to infants and children. Sporadic cases of the propofol infusion syndrome in patients receiving prolonged sedation in intensive care units continue to be reported (characterized by metabolic acidosis, rhabdomyolysis and myocardial failure). It appears that one mechanism may be a deficiency of mitochondrial oxidative processes possibly induced by a dialyzable substance, perhaps a propofol metabolite. Propofol has been used with some success in treating postoperative laryngospasm and for tracheal intubation without muscle relaxants.

Summary: Propofol should be used with extreme caution for prolonged sedation in intensive care unit patients, at dose rates of below 5 mg/kg per h, while maintaining extreme vigilance for signs of developing propofol infusion syndrome. If used correctly propofol is a suitable drug for sedation outside the operating room.