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Use of propofol infusion in Australian and New Zealand paediatric intensive care units

Department of Paediatric Intensive Care, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales


Despite the risk of propofol infusion syndrome, a rare but often fatal complication of propofol infusion in ventilated children and possibly adults, propofol infusion remains in use in paediatric intensive care units (PICU). This questionnaire study surveys the current pattern of use of this sedative infusion in Australian and New Zealand PICUs. Thirty-three of the 45 paediatric intensive care physicians surveyed (73%), from 12 of the 13 intensive care units, returned completed questionnaires. The majority of practitioners (82%) use propofol infusion in children in PICU, the main indication being for short-term sedation in children requiring procedures. 39% of respondents consider propofol infusion useful in ventilated children requiring longer-term sedation. 67% of paediatric intensivists use maximum infusion doses that may be considered dangerously high ( 10 mg/kg/h). Nineteen per cent use propofol infusion for prolonged periods (>72 hours). A smaller proportion (15%) of respondents indicate that they may use both higher doses and prolonged periods of infusion, a practice likely to lead to a greater chance of serious adverse events. Knowledge of local protocols for the use of propofol infusion is associated with a significantly greater level of monitoring for possible adverse events. We suggest that national guidelines for the use of propofol infusion in children should be developed. These should include clear indications and contraindications to its use, a maximum dose rate and maximum period of infusion, with a ceiling placed on the cumulative dose given and clearly stated minimum monitoring requirements.

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