Critical illness polyneuropathy (CIN) and critical illness myopathy (CIM), together “ICU-Acquired weakness (ICUAW),” occur frequently in septic patients. One of the proposed mechanisms for ICUAW includes prolonged inactivation of sodium channels. Propofol, used commonly in patients with acute respiratory failure (ARF), primarily acts via enhancement of GABAergic transmission but may also increase sodium channel inactivation, suggesting a potential interaction.
Electronic medical records and EMG reports of patients with ICUAW and a diagnosis of either sepsis, septicaemia, severe sepsis, or septic shock, concurrent with a diagnosis of acute respiratory failure (ARF), were retrospectively analyzed in a single center university hospital.
74 cases were identified (50.0% men, age 58±14 years), and compared to age- and sex-matched controls. Of these, 51 (69%) had CIN, 19 (26%) had CIM, and 4 (5%) had both. Propofol exposure was significantly higher in patients with ICUAW compared to controls (63.5% vs. 33.8%, p<0.001). The odds ratio of developing ICUAW with propofol exposure was 3.4 (95% CI:1.7-6.7, p<0.001). Patients with ICUAW had significantly more days in hospital (59±44 vs. 30±23) and ICU (38±26 vs. 17±13), days dependent on mechanical ventilation (27±21 vs. 13±16), and rates of tracheostomy (79.7% vs. 36.5%) and gastrostomy (75.7% vs. 25.7%) (all p<0.001). They also received a significantly higher number of distinct intravenous antibiotics, cumulative days of antibiotic therapy, and exposure to vasopressors and paralytics.
Propofol exposure may increase the risk of ICUAW in septic patients. An interaction through sodium channel inactivation is hypothesized.