The Institute of Medicine has identified adverse drug events as factors that significantly contribute to increased patient morbidity and mortality. As critically ill patients receive numerous drugs to treat a multitude of complicated health problems, they are at high risk for adverse drug events. Sedation is often a key requirement for the optimal management of critical illness, and propofol, a common sedative, has many desirable characteristics that make it the ideal agent in numerous circumstances. However, over the last decade, increasing numbers of reports have described a potentially fatal adverse effect called propofol-related infusion syndrome. Whether this adverse drug event is preventable is unclear, but recommendations have been proposed to minimize the potential for development of this syndrome. Research is under way to collect data on the use of propofol in intensive care units and on its prevalence.