Propofol increases morbidity and mortality in a rat model of sepsis

Martin Schläpfer, Tobias Piegeler, Randal O. Dull, David E. Schwartz, Mao Mao, Marcelo G. Bonini, Birgit Roth Z'Graggen, Beatrice Beck-Schimmer, Richard D. Minshall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Introduction: Severe sepsis is associated with approximately 50% mortality and accounts for tremendous healthcare costs. Most patients require ventilatory support and propofol is commonly used to sedate mechanically ventilated patients. Volatile anesthetics have been shown to attenuate inflammation in a variety of different settings. We therefore hypothesized that volatile anesthetic agents may offer beneficial immunomodulatory effects during the course of long-term intra-abdominal sepsis in rats under continuous sedation and ventilation for up to 24 hours. Methods: Sham operation or cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) was performed in adult male Wistar rats followed by mechanical ventilation. Animals were sedated for 24 hours with propofol (7 to 20 mg/kg/h), sevoflurane, desflurane or isoflurane (0.7 minimal alveolar concentration each). Results: Septic animals sedated with propofol showed a mean survival time of 12 hours, whereas >56% of all animals in the volatile groups survived 24 hours (P <0.001). After 18 hours, base excess in propofol + CLP animals (-20.6 ± 2.0) was lower than in the volatile groups (isoflurane + CLP: -11.7 ± 4.2, sevoflurane + CLP: -11.8 ± 3.5, desflurane + CLP -14.2 ± 3.7; all P <0.03). Plasma endotoxin levels reached 2-fold higher levels in propofol + CLP compared to isoflurane + CLP animals at 12 hours (P <0.001). Also blood levels of inflammatory mediators (tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-1β, interleukin-10, CXCL-2, interferon-γ and high mobility group protein-1) were accentuated in propofol + CLP rats compared to the isoflurane + CLP group at the same time point (P <0.04). Conclusions: This is the first study to assess prolonged effects of sepsis and long-term application of volatile sedatives compared to propofol on survival, cardiovascular, inflammatory and end organ parameters. Results indicate that volatile anesthetics dramatically improved survival and attenuate systemic inflammation as compared to propofol. The main mechanism responsible for adverse propofol effects could be an enhanced plasma endotoxin concentration, leading to profound hypotension, which was unresponsive to fluid resuscitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number45
JournalCritical Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 19 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Propofol increases morbidity and mortality in a rat model of sepsis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this