Hemodynamic Effects of Propofol and Dexmedetomidine in Septic Patients Without Shock

Ann Pharmacother. 2020 Jun;54(6):533-540. doi: 10.1177/1060028019895502. Epub 2019 Dec 18.


Background: Use of nonbenzodiazepine agents propofol and dexmedetomidine are first line for sedation in the intensive care unit (ICU). These agents have been implicated in the development of bradycardia and hypotension in critical illness. Objectives: To compare the development of clinically significant hypotension and/or bradycardia (ie, negative hemodynamic event) in adults with sepsis yet to require vasopressors receiving either propofol or dexmedetomidine for continuous sedation. Methods: This was a retrospective multicenter cohort study of adults with non-vasopressor-dependent sepsis admitted to an ICU at two academic medical centers between July 2013-September 2017. Results: Patients in the propofol (n = 64) and dexmedetomidine (n = 31) groups developed a clinically significant negative hemodynamic event at statistically similar frequencies (34.4% vs 16.1%, P = 0.065). Patients receiving propofol developed a larger degree of hypotension (47.3 vs 34.7 mm Hg reduction, P = 0.031). In multivariable logistic regression modeling, independent predictors of a negative hemodynamic event were a past medical history of chronic kidney disease (odds ratio [OR] = 3.8; 95% CI = 1.17-12.2; P = 0.027) and baseline heart rate (OR = 1.02; 95% CI = 1.00-1.10; P = 0.036). Conclusions and Relevance: A minority of patients with sepsis who received either propofol or dexmedetomidine experienced an event. Patients with sepsis without shock receiving continuous infusions of propofol and dexmedetomidine experienced a negative hemodynamic event at similar frequencies, though the degree of hypotension seen with propofol was greater. The clinical significance of these adverse effects requires cautious use in sepsis and further investigation.

Keywords: adverse drug reactions; critical care; hemodynamics; sedatives; sepsis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bradycardia / chemically induced
  • Cohort Studies
  • Critical Illness
  • Dexmedetomidine / administration & dosage
  • Dexmedetomidine / adverse effects*
  • Dexmedetomidine / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Hemodynamics / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / administration & dosage
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects*
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use
  • Hypotension / chemically induced
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Propofol / administration & dosage
  • Propofol / adverse effects*
  • Propofol / therapeutic use
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Shock, Septic / drug therapy*
  • Shock, Septic / physiopathology


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Dexmedetomidine
  • Propofol