Postpropofol Driving Poses Low Risk to Endoscopy Patients

Heidi Splete

May 22, 2020

Adults given propofol as part of an elective outpatient endoscopy procedure showed similar driving skills after postsedation recovery and prior to the procedure, based on simulation data from an open-label study of 41 patients.

Although current guidelines recommend that patients refrain from driving for 24 hours after propofol sedation and be accompanied by a responsible adult, data on the driving skills of patients after postsedation recovery are limited, Pooja Lal, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and colleagues wrote in an abstract released as part of the annual Digestive Disease Week, which was canceled because of COVID-19.

"We assessed psychomotor recovery using a driving simulator which mimics real-life driving in outpatients undergoing gastrointestinal endoscopy with propofol," they wrote.

The researchers enrolled 41 outpatients who were given propofol for various elective procedures at an endoscopy unit of a single center. Patients' driving skills were tested at baseline and after postsedation recovery using a driving simulator. Postsedation recovery was defined as Aldrete score of 9 in the recovery room. Patients were excluded from the study if they demonstrated altered mental status of any type including dementia, delirium, and hepatic encephalopathy; if they were legally blind; or were currently inpatients.

Overall, driving skills were not significantly different between preprocedure and postsedation recovery on measures of number of times over the speed limit (3.2 vs. 3.4), number of times drivers went off the road (0.37 vs. 0.54), and total pedal reaction time (6.1 seconds vs. 7.6 seconds).

"The two variables including gas pedal reaction time and the total number of collisions did not follow normal distribution," with medians of 0.70 for gas pedal reaction time in both groups and medians of 0 collisions for both groups, the investigators noted.

The study findings were limited by the small sample size and open-label design. However, the results suggest that driving skills were similar for patients at baseline and after achieving a postsedation Aldrete score of 9, the researchers wrote. Based on these findings, "current recommendations that patients should refrain from driving and unescorted use of public transport for 24 hours after sedation may need to be reconsidered in patients who receive propofol sedation."

"With this study, we are aiming to identify the correct patient population who could potentially drive themselves home after their procedure rather than having to arrange for transportation," Dr. Lal said in an interview.

"The significant cost associated with the daylong interruption of the activities of daily living, having a family member accompany them for their procedures, or not being able to use public transport unescorted may deter some patients from complying with colonoscopy screenings and other important endoscopic procedures," she explained.

"There are patients who arrive for their procedure without any accompanying family members and we have to admit them to an observation unit overnight or reschedule their procedures. The expense and inconvenience associated with the extended recovery potentially could be an impediment to many important screening exams," she noted. "In the setting of increased awareness regarding the need for these screening exams, this study is important to highlight these barriers and propose a solution for them."

The potential costs of lost salaries is extremely high, she said. "If we assume that the 24-hour recovery period necessitates taking a day off from work, the value of lost salary per patient would be $183.68 as per the 2019 national hourly average wage. With an estimated 19 million colonoscopies performed annually in the United States, the aggregate cost of lost wages with the 24-hour guideline would be $3.5 billion. This amount does not account for the lost wages of the accompanying family member."

Dr. Lal said she and her colleagues were not surprised by the findings. "The endoscopists in our endoscopy unit have noted that patients recover much more rapidly after sedation with propofol compared with other sedative agents. This observation led to the hypothesis that those patients receiving propofol should have a speedy psychomotor recovery and should be able to drive the same day. Our findings are in accordance with our observations." However, "larger and preferably multicenter studies are needed to validate these findings and add to our knowledge about the postsedation psychomotor recovery," said Dr. Lal. She added that the study is ongoing and the researchers have collected data from a total of 63 patients, which increases the power of the results.

The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.

Digestive Disease Week (DDW) 2020: Abstract 295.

This article originally appeared on

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