Prolonged sedation due to accumulation of conjugated metabolites of midazolam

Lancet. 1995 Jul 15;346(8968):145-7. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(95)91209-6.


Midazolam is a short-acting benzodiazepine routinely used in intensive-care medicine. Conjugates of its main metabolite, alpha-hydroxymidazolam, have been shown to accumulate in renal failure but have not previously been related to the prolonged sedative effects commonly observed in critically ill patients. We report five patients with severe renal failure who had prolonged sedation after administration of midazolam. In all five patients, the comatose state was immediately reversed by the benzodiazepine-receptor antagonist flumazenil. Serum concentration monitoring showed high concentrations of conjugated alpha-hydroxymidazolam when concentrations of the unconjugated metabolite and the parent drug were below the therapeutic range. In-vitro binding studies showed that the affinity of binding to the cerebral benzodiazepine receptor of glucuronidated alpha-hydroxymidazolam was only about ten times weaker (affinity constant 16 nmol/L) than that of midazolam (1.4 nmol/L) or unconjugated alpha-hydroxymidazolam (2.2 nmol/L). Conjugated metabolites of midazolam have substantial pharmacological activity. Physicians should be aware that these metabolites can accumulate in patients with renal failure.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Coma / chemically induced*
  • Electroencephalography / drug effects
  • Female
  • Flumazenil / pharmacology*
  • Glucuronates / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Male
  • Midazolam / adverse effects*
  • Midazolam / analogs & derivatives
  • Midazolam / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Midazolam / blood
  • Midazolam / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rats
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism
  • Renal Insufficiency / metabolism*


  • Glucuronates
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Flumazenil
  • 1-hydroxymethylmidazolam
  • Midazolam