An investigation into the effects of midazolam and propofol on human respiratory cilia beat frequency in vitro

Intensive Care Med. 1998 Aug;24(8):791-4. doi: 10.1007/s001340050667.


Objective: Patients in intensive care are known to be prone to both upper and lower respiratory tract infection. Respiratory mucus forms a barrier to infection. Mucus transport rate (MTR) depends upon both the physical properties of mucus and the action of respiratory cilia. Patients undergoing anaesthesia are known to have a reduced MTR that may be related to a depressant effect on cilia beat frequency (CBF) by anaesthetic drugs. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of two commonly used intensive care sedative agents, midazolam and propofol, on CBF using human nasal turbinate explants in vitro.

Design: We exposed ciliated tissue from human nasal turbinate explants to midazolam and propofol in supraclinical concentrations (20 microM midazolam and 70 microM propofol) in a controlled and blinded manner for 90 min and measured CBF by the transmitted light technique.

Results: After 90 min, mean (SEM) CBF in the group exposed to midazolam and its control group were 13.0 (0.2) Hz and 12.9 (0.3) Hz, respectively. Mean (SEM) CBF in the group exposed to propofol was 13.6 (0.4) Hz and in the control group the value was 12.0 (0.6) Hz. There was no significant change in CBF (midazolam: p = 0.21, propofol: p = 0.31, MANOVA for repeated measures).

Conclusions: We have found no effect of midazolam or propofol in supra-clinical concentrations upon CBF in human turbinate explants after a 90-min exposure. This contrasts with previous work that has shown a depressant effect of inhalational anaesthetic agents on CBF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cilia / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology*
  • Midazolam / pharmacology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Propofol / pharmacology*
  • Turbinates / cytology
  • Turbinates / drug effects*


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Midazolam
  • Propofol