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What Is Propofol?

Propofol is a potent intravenous sedative-hypnotic agent used widely in medical settings for anesthesia and sedation. Its rapid onset and short duration of action make it ideal for surgeries and procedures. Known for its distinctive milky appearance, propofol requires careful administration by healthcare professionals. Discover how propofol revolutionizes patient care and what makes it the go-to choice for anesthesiologists. Ready to learn more?
K.C. Bruning
K.C. Bruning

Propofol is an intravenous hypnotic drug. It is used for anesthesia and sedation. The drug has also been prescribed with other opioid drugs for pain relief. It is marketed under the product name Diprivan®.

This medication sedates the body by reducing activity in the nervous system and brain. It does this by blocking the sodium channels that propel reactions to stimulation and increasing the activity of receptors that calm the body. The drug is also believed to affect endocannabinoids which can slow the receptors responsible for brain activity.

Propofol is a drug used to provide anesthesia.
Propofol is a drug used to provide anesthesia.

Propofol usually takes effect within seconds and lasts a few minutes. It must be continually administered in order to maintain sedation. In some instances a patient may be given lidocaine before the injection in order to manage potential vein pain during administration. Injecting the drug into larger veins can also help reduce pain.

In many areas, propofol has become a preferred drug for sedation and anesthesia. This is partly because it achieves sedation easily and comfortably for most patients. It also tends to have a low incidence of adverse side effects compared to similar drugs, such as sodium thiopental, that were once more commonly used for the same purpose. Recovery from the injection is often faster and easier as well.

Propofol achieves sedation easily and comfortably for patients.
Propofol achieves sedation easily and comfortably for patients.

Due to the depressant effect it has on the body, it is particularly important to administer propofol where there are proper resources for resuscitation. Equipment may be needed for ventilation, oxygen supplementation, or cardiovascular problems. It is also vital that the attending staff be properly trained in reacting quickly to the various adverse side effects possible with an injection.

Signs of an allergic reaction to a drug may include breathing difficulties.
Signs of an allergic reaction to a drug may include breathing difficulties.

Propofol can be a higher risk for certain patients. It is not advised for pregnant or nursing women. The drug is also not safe for children under three years of age. Though elderly patients can receive the drug, it is typically advised that they be given a reduced dose.

Some of the mild potential side effects of propofol include itching, skin rash, numbness, or tingling. A patient may also feel anxiety or confusion. Other symptoms include a cough, nausea, or muscle pain.

Neck swelling may be a sign of an allergic reaction.
Neck swelling may be a sign of an allergic reaction.

More serious side effects of propofol should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible. They include shallow breathing, abnormally fast or slow heartbeat, and seizures. Dramatic or painful skin changes at the site of the injection should also receive immediate treatment. Any symptoms of an allergic reaction to the drug should receive emergency attention. They include breathing difficulties, swelling in any areas from the neck up, and hives.

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    • Propofol is a drug used to provide anesthesia.
      By: Firma V
      Propofol is a drug used to provide anesthesia.
    • Propofol achieves sedation easily and comfortably for patients.
      By: pressmaster
      Propofol achieves sedation easily and comfortably for patients.
    • Signs of an allergic reaction to a drug may include breathing difficulties.
      By: Antonioguillem
      Signs of an allergic reaction to a drug may include breathing difficulties.
    • Neck swelling may be a sign of an allergic reaction.
      By: Piotr Marcinski
      Neck swelling may be a sign of an allergic reaction.
    • Propofol is not safe for children under the age of three.
      By: B-C-designs
      Propofol is not safe for children under the age of three.
    • Side effects of propofol may include coughing.
      By: Kitty
      Side effects of propofol may include coughing.
    • Propofol must be continuously administered in order to maintain sedation.
      By: olly
      Propofol must be continuously administered in order to maintain sedation.