Etomidate for procedural sedation in emergency medicine

David R Vinson, David R Bradbury
Annals of Emergency Medicine 2002, 39 (6): 592-8

STUDY OBJECTIVE: We describe and analyze the effectiveness and safety of etomidate for procedural sedation and evaluate the patient's perspective on effectiveness, side effects, and satisfaction.

METHODS: We conducted an observational retrospective study of all patients who received etomidate for procedural sedation over 2 years in 3 affiliated suburban emergency departments of a large group-model health maintenance organization. Data were abstracted from the ED records. Additionally, a patient questionnaire was prospectively administered by telephone.

RESULTS: Etomidate was used for sedation in 134 patients between 6 and 93 years of age during 150 procedures. The mean cumulative dose was 0.20 mg/kg. Adjunctive medication was used in 36 (23%) procedures. Moderate sedation with verbal arousability was induced in 48 (32%) patients, and deep sedation with verbal unresponsiveness was induced in 102 (68%) patients. Full recovery to the preprocedural level of alertness was achieved within 30 minutes in 142 (95%) of procedures. Mean changes in systolic blood pressure, pulse rate, and oxygen saturation were clinically insignificant. There were 7 (4.7%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.9% to 9.4%) adverse events, including 5 (3.3%; 95% CI 1.1% to 7.6%) cases of oxygen desaturation below 94% in older patients (>55 years of age) who received slightly higher mean doses of etomidate (0.23 mg/kg). Four of these patients received brief assisted bag-valve-mask ventilation and recovered uneventfully; none required endotracheal intubation. The questionnaire was completed by 120 (90%) of 134 patients and involved 136 procedures. During 127 (93%) of these, etomidate was believed to be extremely effective in causing sleep, and for 127 (93%) it induced complete procedural amnesia. Only 5 (4%) patients experienced nausea or vomiting. Regarding willingness to receive etomidate for their next procedure, the patients' responses were favorable: extremely, 95%; moderately, 2%; slightly, 3%; and not at all, 1%.

CONCLUSION: Etomidate is a useful agent for carefully conducted procedural sedation because it provides effective, brief, deep sedation with little hemodynamic compromise. Its safety may be jeopardized by the occurrence of respiratory depression in older patients receiving higher doses. Patients report a high degree of satisfaction with etomidate.

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