How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Propofol belongs to a class of medications known as hypnotics or anaesthetics. Hypnotics cause sleep and reduced sensitivity to pain by reducing the movement of pain messages through the nerves. They may cause partial or complete unconsciousness.

Propofol is used to induce and maintain sleep as part of anesthesia during surgery for adults and children 3 years of age and older. It may be used for adults before an uncomfortable procedure, to relax and reduce awareness but not cause deep sleep. This is referred to as conscious sedation. Propofol is also used to reduce awareness and cause sleep for adults who are being treated in an intensive care unit. This reduces awareness of surroundings and thus reduces the stress on the body, allowing recovery.

This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are receiving this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

Each mL of white, oil in water emulsion contains propofol 10 mg. Nonmedicinal ingredients: soybean oil, glycerol, egg lecithin, oleic acid, and water for injection with sodium hydroxide to adjust pH.

How should I use this medication?

The dose of propofol used depends on why the medication is being given. Your doctor will calculate the appropriate dose based on body weight. Propofol is given intravenously (through a vein) by an anesthetist (a doctor who specializes anesthesia).

Propofol should only be used by doctors who have experience with anesthesia and using propofol. You should be continuously monitored and facilities for maintenance of a person's airway, artificial ventilation, and oxygen enrichment and circulatory resuscitation must be immediately available in case needed.

Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.

It is important that this medication be given exactly as recommended by your doctor. If you miss an appointment to receive propofol, contact your doctor as soon as possible to reschedule your appointment.

Store this medication at room temperature, protect it from freezing and keep it out of the reach of children.

Strict aseptic techniques must always be maintained during handling as propofol is a single-use injectable product, and contains no antimicrobial preservatives. The vehicle is capable of supporting rapid growth of microorganisms. Failure to follow aseptic handling procedures may result in microbial contamination causing serious infections which could lead to life-threatening illness such as septic shock.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not use this medication if you:

  • are allergic to propofol or any ingredients of this medication
  • are 18 years of age or younger receiving intensive care
  • are planning to drive or operate any tools or machinery on the day of surgery
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have any contraindications to sedation or general anaesthesia
  • have high fat levels in the blood (high triglycerides)

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is used in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who receives this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people receiving this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • decreased or increased heart rate
  • difficulty breathing
  • dizziness
  • flushing
  • headache
  • heat or pain at the injection site
  • irregular heartbeat
  • low blood pressure
  • nausea or vomiting
  • rash

Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • agitation
  • cough
  • muscle spasms

Stop using the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • seizures
  • symptoms of a heart attack (e.g., chest pain, difficulty breathing, pain down left arm)
  • symptoms of an allergic reaction (e.g., difficulty breathing, sweating, swelling of the face or throat, hives)
  • symptoms of low blood sugar (e.g., dizziness, confusion, weakness, sweating)

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are using this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Drowsiness/reduced alertness: Propofol will cause reduced alertness and cause a person to be drowsy even after they have awakened. If you have received propofol as part of an outpatient procedure, you should not drive or operate machinery until the effects of propofol have completely passed.

Heart disease: If you have heart disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Impaired fat (lipid) metabolism: If you have impaired lipid metabolism (e.g., high lipid levels associated with diabetes, pancreatitis), discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Impaired kidney and liver function: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication if you have impaired kidney and liver function have not been established.

Seizures: If you have seizures or a history of seizures, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Pregnancy: This medication should not be used during pregnancy. If you are or may be pregnant and require this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast-feeding: This medication passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are taking propofol, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

Children: The safety and effectiveness of this medication have not been established for children less than 3 years of age. Propofol may be used as part of anesthesia for children 3 years of age and older. It should not be used for children under the age of 18 as sedation in intensive care or conscious sedation.

Seniors: Seniors may be much more likely to experience side effects of this medication and may require lower doses.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

There may be an interaction between propofol and any of the following:

  • benzodiazepines (e.g., clonazepam, diazepam, lorazepam)
  • cyclosporine
  • inhaled anesthetics
  • medications that affect the muscles (e.g., neostigmine, suxamethonium)
  • miconazole
  • opioid pain relievers (e.g., codeine, fentanyl, morphine)
  • other medications that cause drowsiness
  • thiotepa

If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.