Prolonged propofol use in a critically ill pregnant patient

Ann Pharmacother. 2010 Dec;44(12):2018-22. doi: 10.1345/aph.1P427. Epub 2010 Nov 9.


Objective: To describe the prolonged use of propofol for sedation of a critically ill pregnant patient in her second trimester.

Case summary: A 20-year-old pregnant woman at 14 weeks' gestation with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma required intubation and mechanical ventilation secondary to tumor-related airway obstruction. Immediately after intubation, propofol was initiated for sedation and maintained for 51 days with only one 5-day interruption in therapy. Over the course of the patient's stay in the intensive care unit, systemic chemotherapy was administered, resulting in a reduction in tumor burden and allowing for successful extubation. Ultimately, the fetus was deemed nonviable and the pregnancy was terminated.

Discussion: Propofol is an intravenous anesthetic agent commonly used for the sedation of mechanically ventilated patients and is the only sedative agent that carries a pregnancy category B rating. Fetal outcomes following long-term use of propofol during the first trimester have not been formally evaluated and few reports of propofol use outside of early pregnancy termination, outpatient procedures, or parturition exist in the medical literature. Our patient required early termination of pregnancy; however, we were unable to determine whether fetal loss was a result of propofol use, chemotherapy administration, the use of other pharmacologic agents, or perhaps a combined effect.

Conclusions: Despite propofol's pregnancy category B rating, data are lacking in humans regarding its safe use during pregnancy and long-term developmental outcomes in children after exposure to propofol in utero. The safety of propofol as a sedative agent for critically ill pregnant patients remains unknown.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced
  • Adult
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / administration & dosage
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / adverse effects
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Critical Illness
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / chemically induced*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced
  • Propofol / administration & dosage
  • Propofol / pharmacology
  • Propofol / therapeutic use*
  • Time Factors


  • Anesthetics, Intravenous
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Propofol