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Droperidol – Effect, Application & Risks


Droperidol is a drug from the drug class of neuroleptics . It is used to prevent nausea and vomiting after surgery.

What is Droperidol?

The drug droperidol belongs to the group of butyrophenones . Butyrophenones are a group of drugs that are mainly used in the pharmacological therapy of schizophrenia . Droperidol also has antipsychotic properties. In combination with the antiemetic effect, droperidol is therefore suitable as a remedy for postoperative nausea and as a sedative in neuroanaesthesia.

The drug is a derivative of benperidol . At room temperature, droperidol is in white powder form. The powder is hardly soluble in water. The drug is commercially available as a solution for injection. It has been registered in Switzerland since 2006. After being withdrawn from the market in 2001, the drug was approved again in Germany in 2008.

Pharmacological action

Like most neuroleptics, droperidol also has a binding affinity to D2 receptors in the central nervous system . D2 receptors are also called dopamine receptors. They serve as a docking point for dopamine , a neurotransmitter . Dopamine has an inhibitory effect on the extrapyramidal motor system via the D2 receptors.

Droperidol primarily acts on the D2 receptors in the area postrema . The area postrema is located in the brainstem and, together with the nucleus tractus solitarii , forms the center of vomiting . The transmitter dopamine plays an important role in vomiting. Dopamine antagonists such as droperidol block the D2 receptors and thus inhibit the urge to vomit.

Droperidol also has a low affinity for D3 receptors. These receptors also serve as a docking point for dopamine. D3 receptors are mainly found in the limbic system and in the cortical areas of the brain . They play a role in emotional and cognitive processes. The inhibition of the D3-receptors leads to an alleviation of psychotic symptoms.

Droperidol can also bind to 5-HT2 receptors. The inhibition of the responsiveness of the receptors has, among other things, an anxiolytic effect.

Medical Application & Use

Until the 1980s, droperidol was administered together with the drug Thalamonal prior to surgical procedures. The patients should be sedated by the combination of the active ingredients fentanyl ] and droperidol. At the same time, the fear of the surgical intervention should be taken away from them. However , many of the patients complained of depression , panic and agitation combined with tiredness . Therefore, the drug was only used in exceptional cases by anesthesiologists . Benzodiazepines are now more commonly used for this purpose.

In 2001, the oral dosage form of Droperidol was withdrawn from the market. Long-term, high-dose therapy has had side effects that affected the heart . The parenteral form of administration was taken off the market along with the oral form. The drug was only approved again in Germany in 2008.

Today it is available in anesthesia for the prophylaxis and treatment of nausea and vomiting after operations. It can be used in adults and in children over the age of two. Droperidol can also be administered to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by opioids in patient -controlled analgesia . Patient-controlled analgesia allows the patient to self-administer a painkiller . Classically, an opioid is administered intravenously using a pain pump .

Risks & side effects

Droperidol should not be used in patients with known hypersensitivity or allergy to droperidol or any other ingredient in the drug. Hypersensitivity or allergies to butyrophenone are also contraindications. If there is a known or suspected prolonged QT interval on the ECG , droperidol should not be administered. In women, the QT interval must not exceed 440 ms, in men it must not exceed 450 ms. This limitation also applies to patients with a family history of congenital QT prolongation and patients receiving medicinal products known to prolong QT.

Other contraindications to the use of droperidol are potassium deficiency and magnesium deficiency . Bradycardia , i.e. a slow heartbeat, is also a contraindication. Another drug should also be used in patients with a pheochromocytoma . Exclusion criteria are also comatose states, Parkinson’s disease and severe depression.

Depressive episodes can occur when taking droperidol. Some patients also complain of nervousness, memory problems and confusion .

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.