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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Evaluation of propofol anesthesia in morbidly obese children and adolescents

Vidya Chidambaran18*, Senthilkumar Sadhasivam18, Jeroen Diepstraten2, Hope Esslinger3, Shareen Cox4, Beverly M Schnell5, Paul Samuels18, Thomas Inge68, Alexander A Vinks78 and Catherijne A Knibbe29

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anesthesia and Paediatrics, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, 3333 Burnet Ave, MLC 2001, Cincinnati, OH, 45229, USA

2 Division of Pharmacology, Leiden/Amsterdam Center for Drug Research, Leiden, Netherlands

3 Department of Anesthesia, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA

4 Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA

5 Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA

6 Division of Paediatric Surgery, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA

7 Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Department of Paediatrics, Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA

8 University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA

9 Department of Clinical Pharmacy, St. Antonius Hospital, Nieuwegein, Netherlands

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BMC Anesthesiology 2013, 13:8  doi:10.1186/1471-2253-13-8

Published: 21 April 2013



Poor characterization of propofol pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in the morbidly obese (MO) pediatric population poses dosing challenges. This study was conducted to evaluate propofol total intravenous anesthesia (TIVA) in this population.


After IRB approval, a prospective study was conducted in 20 MO children and adolescents undergoing laparoscopic surgery under clinically titrated propofol TIVA. Propofol doses/infusion rates, hemodynamic variables, times to induction and emergence, and postoperative occurrence of respiratory adverse events (RAE) were recorded, along with intraoperative blinded Bispectral Index/BIS and postoperative Ramsay sedation scores (RSS). Study subjects completed awareness questionnaires on postoperative days 1 and 3. Propofol concentrations were obtained at predetermined intra- and post-operative time points.


Study subjects ranged 9 – 18 years (age) and 97 - 99.9% (BMI for age percentiles). Average percentage variability of hemodynamic parameters from baseline was ≈ 20%. Patients had consistently below target BIS values (BIS < 40 for >90% of maintenance phase), delayed emergence (25.8 ± 22 minutes), increased somnolence (RSS ≥ 4) in the first 30 minutes of recovery from anesthesia and 30% incidence of postoperative RAE, the odds for which increased by 14% per unit increase in BMI (p ≤ 0.05). Mean propofol concentration was 6.2 mg/L during maintenance and 1.8 mg/L during emergence from anesthesia.


Our findings indicate clinical overestimation of propofol requirements and highlight the challenges of clinically titrated propofol TIVA in MO adolescents. In this setting, it may be advantageous to titrate propofol to targeted BIS levels until more accurate weight-appropriate dosing regimens are developed, to minimize relative overdosing and its consequences.

Morbidly obese; Bariatric; Propofol; Total intravenous anesthesia; Bispectral index; Anesthetic depth; Pediatric; Adolescents