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Midazolam: a review of therapeutic uses and toxicity

S P Nordt, R F Clark
Journal of Emergency Medicine 1997, 15 (3): 357-65
Midazolam is a familiar agent commonly used in the emergency department to provide sedation prior to procedures such as laceration repair and reduction of dislocations. Midazolam is also effective in the treatment of generalized seizures, status epilepticus, and behavioral emergencies, particularly when intravenous access is not available. Midazolam is often employed as an induction agent for rapid sequence endotracheal intubation. Midazolam has a rapid onset of action following intravenous, intramuscular, oral, nasal, and rectal administration. Only 50% of an orally administered dose reaches the systemic circulation due to extensive first-pass metabolism. Midazolam is metabolized by the cytochrome P450 enzyme system to several metabolites including an active metabolite, alpha-hydroxymidazolam. Cytochrome P450 inhibitors such as cimetidine can profoundly reduce the metabolism of midazolam. Midazolam has a half-life of approximately 1 h, but this half-life may be prolonged in patients with renal or hepatic dysfunction. Midazolam has been associated with respiratory depression and cardiac arrest when used in combination with an opioid, particularly in the elderly, although all ages are at risk for respiratory depression. Midazolam is relatively free of side effects when used alone and offers several advantages over traditional pharmacological agents such as chloral hydrate and the combination of meperidine, chlorpromazine, and promethazine. Hiccups, cough, nausea, and vomiting are the most commonly reported adverse effects. Many of the adverse effects associated with midazolam can be reversed rapidly by the administration of flumazenil, a competitive benzodiazepine receptor antagonist. Midazolam is a safe and effective agent for providing sedation in the emergency department.


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