The effect of propofol on thermal pain perception

Academic Article


  • We studied the effect of propofol, a widely used sedative-hypnotic drug, on pain perception. Eighteen subjects received propofol in two sedative concentrations that were balanced and randomized in order. Painful (45°C, 47°C, and 49°C) stimulation temperatures were presented in random order, and nonpainful 31°C stimuli were presented on alternate trials. We used a target-controlled infusion and chose effect site concentrations of 0.5 μg/mL for mild sedation and 1.0 μg/mL for moderate sedation. Using a visual analog scale, subjects rated both pain intensity and unpleasantness higher when sedated with propofol. The average pain intensity was 28/100 for placebo, 35/100 for mild, and 40/100 for moderate sedation. Pain unpleasantness was 23/100 for placebo, 29/100 for mild, and 33/100 for moderate sedation. This effect was unexpected and may be explained by a difference of subjective pain experience by a patient and the perceived level of analgesia by a health care provider in sedated patients. This finding calls further attention to the need for adequate analgesia in patients sedated with propofol.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Frölich MA; Price DD; Robinson ME; Shuster JJ; Theriaque DW; Heft MW
  • Start Page

  • 481
  • End Page

  • 486
  • Volume

  • 100
  • Issue

  • 2