Propofol and Survival: An Updated Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials

Yuki Kotani; Alessandro Pruna; Stefano Turi; Giovanni Borghi; Todd C. Lee; Alberto Zangrillo; Giovanni Landoni; Laura Pasin


Crit Care. 2023;27(139) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Propofol is one of the most widely used hypnotic agents in the world. Nonetheless, propofol might have detrimental effects on clinically relevant outcomes, possibly due to inhibition of other interventions' organ protective properties. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to evaluate if propofol reduced survival compared to any other hypnotic agent in any clinical setting.

Methods: We searched eligible studies in PubMed, Google Scholar, and the Cochrane Register of Clinical Trials. The following inclusion criteria were used: random treatment allocation and comparison between propofol and any comparator in any clinical setting. The primary outcome was mortality at the longest follow-up available. We conducted a fixed-effects meta-analysis for the risk ratio (RR). Using this RR and 95% confidence interval, we estimated the probability of any harm (RR > 1) through Bayesian statistics. We registered this systematic review and meta-analysis in PROSPERO International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (CRD42022323143).

Results: We identified 252 randomized trials comprising 30,757 patients. Mortality was higher in the propofol group than in the comparator group (760/14,754 [5.2%] vs. 682/16,003 [4.3%]; RR = 1.10; 95% confidence interval, 1.01–1.20; p = 0.03; I2 = 0%; number needed to harm = 235), corresponding to a 98.4% probability of any increase in mortality. A statistically significant mortality increase in the propofol group was confirmed in subgroups of cardiac surgery, adult patients, volatile agent as comparator, large studies, and studies with low mortality in the comparator arm.

Conclusions: Propofol may reduce survival in perioperative and critically ill patients. This needs careful assessment of the risk versus benefit of propofol compared to other agents while planning for large, pragmatic multicentric randomized controlled trials to provide a definitive answer.

Graphical Abstract