Modeling Respiratory Depression Induced by Remifentanil and Propofol during Sedation and Analgesia Using a Continuous Noninvasive Measurement of pCO2

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2016 Mar;356(3):563-73. doi: 10.1124/jpet.115.226977. Epub 2015 Dec 11.


Respiratory depression is a common adverse effect of propofol and remifentanil. We aimed to develop a model for respiratory depressant effects of propofol with remifentanil in patients undergoing endoscopy with sedation. Data were available for 136 patients undergoing endoscopy with sedation. Participants randomly received infusions of propofol and remifentanil. Predicted plasma concentrations, outputted by infusion pumps, were available. Transcutaneous arterial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) was measured. Data were analyzed using nonlinear mixed-effects modeling methods. Covariate relationships were investigated for age, noxious stimuli (endoscopy tube insertion), and A118G genotype for the µ-opioid receptor (OPRM1). Participants had a median (range) age of 64.0 (25.0-88.0) years, weight of 70.0 (35.0-98.0) kg, and height of 164.0 (147.0-190.0) cm. Seven percent were recessive homozygous for OPRM1 polymorphism. An indirect-effect model with a "modulator" compartment best described pCO2 data (P < 0.001) over a direct-effect model. Remifentanil inhibited pCO2 removal with an IC50 of 1.13 ng/ml and first-order rate constant (ke 0) of 0.28 minute(-1). Propofol affected the modulator compartment with an IC50 of 4.97 µg/ml (no effect-site compartment). Propofol IC50 and remifentanil ke 0 were reduced with increasing age. Noxious stimuli and genotype were not significant covariates. An indirect-effect model with a rebound mechanism can describe remifentanil- and propofol-induced changes in pCO2 in patients undergoing noxious procedures. The model may be useful for identifying optimal dosing schedules for these drugs in a combination that provides adequate sedation but avoids respiratory depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / administration & dosage
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / adverse effects
  • Blood Gas Monitoring, Transcutaneous / methods
  • Carbon Dioxide / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / administration & dosage
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Intraoperative / methods*
  • Piperidines / administration & dosage*
  • Piperidines / adverse effects
  • Propofol / administration & dosage*
  • Propofol / adverse effects
  • Remifentanil
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / blood*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / chemically induced
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / diagnosis


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Piperidines
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Remifentanil
  • Propofol