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What Is Droperidol?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Droperidol is a medicine that is typically administered after a patient undergoes a surgical procedure to help alleviate nausea and vomiting. A doctor may also prescribe it to certain patients who display combative or aggressive behavior, or it may be used as a sedative prior to a medical procedure. This medication works by blocking some signals in the brain. It is classified as a butyrophenone, a type of tranquilizer.

A doctor will administer droperidol because the only available form of this drug is an injectable solution, either into a muscle or intravenously into a vein. Since patients typically receive droperidol in a hospital, a doctor or nurse will be on hand to monitor them for side effects. Not all patients will experience side effects; however, those that do should notify a health care professional.

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Less severe side effects can include sleepiness and sedation. Patients may also experience postural hypotension, which is a drop in blood pressure caused by changing position. This condition may lead to dizziness or feeling faint. To avoid falling, patients should sit up or stand up slowly. Consuming adequate liquids can help reduce this side effect.

Rarely, patients taking droperidol may develop a condition called neuroleptic malignant syndrome. This may be life-threatening and requires immediate medical treatment. Some possible signs of this syndrome include tremors and tight muscles. Fever, sweating, and confusion, along with constipation can also occur.

Extrapyramidal effects have also been known to occur with the use of droperidol. These are unplanned movements and involuntary muscle contractions. Patients may notice that they involuntarily stick out their tongues, or that they suffer from tremors and restlessness. The doctor may advise discontinuing the medicine or he may prescribe another drug to manage the tremors, such as diphenhydramine.

Another rare, but serious, side effect is a change in the patient's heart rhythms. Those taking droperidol should be alert to possible irregular heartbeats. They may also notice problems breathing, bluish skin, or blue nails. Some patients may suffer from a seizure.

Droperidol is not intended for use by women who are pregnant or nursing. Patients with liver or kidney disease, as well as certain nutritional deficiencies, heart failure, or any other heart problem may be unable to have this injection. All allergies, including food or dye allergies, must be disclosed to the doctor.

Before using droperidol, patients should disclose their other medications and supplements. This nausea drug may interact with a wide range of products, including castor oil, levodopa, and other tranquilizers. It may also interact with corticosteroids, antihistamines, and muscle relaxants. The doctor will likely ask about the patient's typical alcohol consumption, because this can increase the likelihood of developing heart problems.

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