Procedural sedation of elderly patients by emergency physicians: a safety analysis of 740 patients

BACKGROUND The elderly are perceived as a high-risk group for procedural sedation. Concern exists regarding the safety of sedation of this patient group by emergency physicians, particularly when using propofol.
METHODS We analysed prospectively collected data on patients aged 75 yr or older undergoing sedation between October 2006 and March 2017 in the emergency department of a single centre. We used the World Society of Intravenous Anaesthesia International Sedation Task Force adverse event tool, stratifying identified adverse events according to consensus agreement.
RESULTS Of 740 consecutive patients (median age 84 yr), 571 patients received propofol, 142 morphine and midazolam, and 27 other agents. We identified 19 sentinel events: 2 cases of hypoxia, 10 of apnoea (without hypoxaemia), 5 of hypotension, and 2 of both hypoxaemia and hypotension. We also identified 30 moderate, 41 minor, and 7 minimal risk adverse events. There were no adverse outcomes.
CONCLUSIONS We observed safe sedation practice in this high-risk group of patients in this department. A sentinel adverse event rate of 2.6% including a hypoxaemia rate of 0.5%, with no adverse outcomes sets a benchmark for elderly sedation. We recommend quality pre-oxygenation, an initial propofol bolus of no more than 0.5 mg kg -1 , and a robust training and governance framework.

as reported in: Br J Anaesth. 2018 Dec; 121(6): 1236-1241