Study: Anesthesia drug propofol safe for sedation during child imaging exams

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Anesthesia medication propofol has a low occurrence of adverse events and no long term complications for children undergoing research-driven imaging studies, according to a study published in the June 7 issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Lead author Zena Quezado, MD, director of the Pain Neurobiology Laboratory at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and colleagues retrospectively reviewed the cases of 607 children and adolescents who required anesthesia for research-related imaging studies from January 2000 to September 2008.

The researchers included 607 patients who underwent 1,480 propofol anesthetic procedures for imaging studies at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. They explained that risk factors for adverse events can include increasing anesthetic duration and presence of airway abnormalities.

The investigators observed 98 notable respiratory, cardiovascular and other anesthesia-related adverse events in 63 patients, or 79 anesthetic procedures, noting that these results represent a rate of 534 per 10,000 anesthetic procedures with one or more adverse events.

Of the patient cohort, subjects with severe diseases and significant disabilities received 70 percent of anesthetics. Anesthesia had an average duration of 115 minutes and in 12.5 percent of procedures, an airway device was necessary, the researchers reported. One event had led to an escalation of planned therapy and no events led to prolonged hospitalization, morbidity or mortality.

“We know that propofol can be safely administered in pediatric research studies by well-trained anesthesiologists who are prepared to anticipate and respond to all events, which minimizes the risk of adverse issues,” said Quezado and colleagues. “We are applying the findings of this research immediately in our own work, and will help others ensure that every study involving children is safe, ethical and effective."

They noted that the study will help Institutional Review Boards and parents evaluate the risk-benefit ratio of proposed studies, particularly those involving prolonged imaging studies.