Anaesthetic induction with propofol: How much? How fast? How slow?

”What determines anesthetic induction dose? It’s the Front-End Kinetics, Doctor!”

  • J F Coetzee University of Stellenbosch


It has long been realised that linear dosing according to total body weight (TBW) results in overdosing obese patients and under-dosing small children. Injected drug doses calculated on a body weight basis work well only for patients of normal habitus. As long ago as 1969, in a study of induction doses of thiopentone,  ulfsohn and Joshi2 concluded that thiopentone was better administered according to lean body mass (LBM) than to TBW. They reasoned that endomorphic somatotypes required less thiopentone than mesomorphs and ectomorphs of the same TBW, because they had less LBM. They pointed out that there is a strong association between LBM, cardiac output and basal metabolic rate, and suggested that the LBM contained the “pharmacologically active mass”. Obese patients can perhaps be loosely regarded as ordinary individuals entrapped in a cocoon of fat into which hardly any injected drug is distributed. However the LBM of obese persons also increases as they accumulate fat, mainly due to increased muscle mass, as well as  enlargement of other organs and blood volume. The dilemma is that LBM does not increase at the same rate as the increase in fat. Thus, although we know that they need more drug than normal-weight patients, how much more is often uncertain.

Author Biography

J F Coetzee, University of Stellenbosch

BSc, PhD, BSc, MBChB, MMed(Anes), FCA(SA), DipDat(UNISA), Lecturer, Department of Anesthesiology & Critical Care, Stellenbosch University