Propofol for adult procedural sedation in a UK emergency department: safety profile in 1008 cases

Br J Anaesth. 2013 Oct;111(4):651-5. doi: 10.1093/bja/aet168. Epub 2013 May 9.


Background: Concerns exist regarding the safe use of propofol by Emergency Physicians for procedural sedation. The World SIVA International Sedation Task Force has recently created an adverse event tool, in an effort to standardize reporting. We present a safety analysis of our use of propofol using this tool.

Method: Propofol was given according to a previously published guideline. We analysed our dedicated departmental sedation database between December 2006 and March 2012 and cross-examined the original sedation chart for each case recorded. We stratified the identified adverse events according to consensus agreement.

Results: Of the 1008 consecutive cases, we identified 11 sentinel (5 cases of hypoxia, 6 of hypotension), 34 moderate, 25 minor, and 3 minimal risk adverse events. There were no adverse outcomes.

Conclusions: Our large series of propofol sedations performed by emergency physicians supports the safety of this practice. The sentinel adverse event rate of 1% that we identify prompts review: we will in future emphasize adherence to the reduced 0.5 mg kg(-1) propofol dose in the elderly, and reconsider our use of metaraminol. We believe that our application of the World SIVA adverse event tool sets a benchmark for further studies.

Keywords: anaesthetics i.v.; governance; propofol; sedation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Conscious Sedation / adverse effects*
  • Conscious Sedation / methods
  • Conscious Sedation / standards
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Propofol / adverse effects*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sentinel Surveillance


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Propofol