Emergency medicine updates: Droperidol

Am J Emerg Med. 2022 Mar:53:180-184. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2022.01.011. Epub 2022 Jan 14.


Introduction: Droperidol is a butyrophenone that has recently been reintroduced after a United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) black box warning in 2001. Evidence demonstrates utility in a variety of clinical conditions.

Objective: This paper provides evidence-based updates concerning the use of droperidol for the emergency clinician.

Discussion: Droperidol received a black box warning by the US FDA in 2001 due to concerns for QT prolongation and torsades de pointes; however, reevaluation of the available data suggests droperidol is a safe and efficacious medication. It can be used in the emergency department (ED) setting for many conditions, including acute agitation, headaches, vertigo, nausea, and vomiting. Extensive literature supports that the QT-prolonging effects are transient and that the risk of torsades de pointes is rare with doses utilized in the ED. An electrocardiogram does not need to be routinely obtained before droperidol use but should be considered in patients at high risk for QT prolongation.

Conclusions: Current evidence suggests that droperidol is a safe and effective medication for treating nausea and vomiting, headache, vertigo, and agitation in the ED setting.

Keywords: Agitation; Droperidol; Headache; Nausea; Pain; Prolonged QT; QT prolongation; vertigo.

MeSH terms

  • Droperidol / adverse effects
  • Emergency Medicine*
  • Headache / chemically induced
  • Headache / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Long QT Syndrome* / chemically induced
  • Long QT Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Nausea / chemically induced
  • Nausea / drug therapy
  • Torsades de Pointes* / chemically induced
  • Torsades de Pointes* / drug therapy
  • United States
  • Vertigo / chemically induced
  • Vertigo / drug therapy
  • Vomiting / chemically induced
  • Vomiting / drug therapy


  • Droperidol