(April 5, 2023)
Adult dose for undifferentiated agitation in the ED (7, 19)
Usage in the Emergency Department
Droperidol is a first-generation antipsychotic that has prominent dopamine antagonism. Its effects include(4, 8):
⚠ Warnings and Precautions
US-FDA Black Box Warning issued in 2001, label citation (23)
“Cases of QT prolongation and/or torsade de pointes have been reported in patients receiving droperidol at doses at or below recommended doses. Some cases have occurred in patients with no known risk factors for QT prolongation and some cases have been fatal. Due to its potential for serious proarrhythmic effects and death, droperidol should be reserved for use in the treatment of patients who fail to show an acceptable response to other adequate treatments, either because of insufficient effectiveness or the inability to achieve an effective dose due to intolerable adverse effects from those drugs (see CONTRAINDICATIONS, WARNINGS, PRECAUTIONS, and ADVERSE REACTIONS).
Cases of QT prolongation and serious arrhythmias (e.g., torsade de pointes) have been reported in patients treated with droperidol. Based on these reports, all patients should undergo a 12-lead ECG prior to administration of droperidol to determine if a prolonged QT interval (i.e., QTc greater than 440 msec for males or 450 msec for females) is present. If there is a prolonged QT interval, droperidol should NOT be administered. For patients in whom the potential benefit of droperidol treatment is felt to outweigh the risks of potentially serious arrhythmias, ECG monitoring should be performed prior to treatment and continued for 2-3 hours after completing treatment to monitor for arrhythmias.
Droperidol is contraindicated in patients with known or suspected QT prolongation, including patients with congenital long QT syndrome.
Droperidol should be administered with extreme caution to patients who may be at risk for development of prolonged QT syndrome (e.g., congestive heart failure, bradycardia, use of a diuretic, cardiac hypertrophy, hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia, or administration of other drugs known to increase the QT interval).
Other risk factors may include age over 65 years, alcohol abuse, and use of agents such as benzodiazepines, volatile anesthetics, and IV opiates. Droperidol should be initiated at a low dose and adjusted upward, with caution, as needed to achieve the desired effect.”
Questioning of the US-FDA Black Box Warning
A copious amount of clinical data, review articles and society statements have emerged over the last decade defending droperidol safety when used properly and in the doses that usually are sufficiently needed in the ED (11, 18).
Pregnancy and lactation
Cressman WA, Plostnieks J, Johnson PC. Absorption, metabolism and excretion of droperidol by human subjects following intramuscular and intravenous administration. Anesthesiology. 1973;38(4):363-369. doi:10.1097/00000542-197304000-00010
Anesthesiology (Open Access)
Fortney JT, Gan TJ, Graczyk S, et al. A comparison of the efficacy, safety, and patient satisfaction of ondansetron versus droperidol as antiemetics for elective outpatient surgical procedures. S3A-409 and S3A-410 Study Groups. Anesth Analg. 1998;86(4):731-738. doi:10.1097/00000539-199804000-00011
Irving C, Richman PB, Kaiafas C, Eskin B, Ritter A, Allegra J. Droperidol for the treatment of acute peripheral vertigo. Am J Emerg Med. 1999;17(1):109-110. doi:10.1016/s0735-6757(99)90037-2