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Propofol for procedural sedation in the emergency department
  1. Tamsin Dunn,
  2. David Mossop1,
  3. Alastair Newton2,
  4. Alison Gammon3
  1. 1Emergency Department, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Emergency Department, St Thomas’ Hospital, London, UK
  3. 3Accident and Emergency Department, Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Tamsin Dunn
 Emergency Department, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, OX3 9DU, UK; tamsindunn{at}


Objectives: To observe procedural sedation practice within a district general hospital emergency department (ED) that uses propofol for procedural sedation.

Methods: Prospective observation of procedural sedation over an 11 month period. Patients over 16 years of age requiring procedural sedation and able to give informed consent were recruited. The choice of sedation agent was at the discretion of the physician. The following details were recorded on a standard proforma for each patient: indication for procedural sedation; agent used; depth and duration of sedation; ease of reduction; use of a reversal agent; complications and reasons for delayed discharge from the ED.

Results: 48 patients were recruited; propofol was used in 32 cases and midazolam in 16 cases. The median period of sedation was considerably shorter in the propofol group (3 vs 45 min) but this did not confer a shorter median time in the ED (200 vs 175 min). There were no documented cases of over-sedation in the propofol group; however, four patients in the midazolam group were over-sedated, three requiring reversal with flumazenil. There were no other significant complications in either group. There was no difference in the median depth of sedation achieved or ease of reduction between the two groups.

Conclusions: Propofol is effective and safe for procedural sedation in the ED. Propofol has a considerably shorter duration of action than midazolam, thereby shortening the period of sedation.

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  • Competing interests: None declared