The most frequent adverse reactions associated with use of intravenous etomidate are transient venous pain on injection and transient skeletal muscle movements, including myoclonus:
Transient venous pain was observed immediately following intravenous injection of etomidate in about 20% of the patients, with considerable difference in the reported incidence (1.2% to 42%). This pain is usually described as mild to moderate in severity but it is occasionally judged disturbing. The observation of venous pain is not associated with a more than usual incidence of thrombosis or thrombophlebitis at the injection site. Pain also appears to be less frequently noted when larger, more proximal arm veins are employed and it appears to be more frequently noted when smaller, more distal, hand or wrist veins are employed.
Transient skeletal muscle movements were noted following use of intravenous etomidate in about 32% of the patients, with considerable difference in the reported incidence (22.7% to 63%). Most of these observations were judged mild to moderate in severity but some were judged disturbing. The incidence of disturbing movements was less when 0.1 mg of fentanyl was given immediately before induction. These movements have been classified as myoclonic in the majority of cases (74%), but averting movements (7%), tonic movements (10%), and eye movements (9%) have also been reported. No exact classification is available, but these movements may also be placed into three groups by location:
a. Most movements are bilateral. The arms, legs, shoulders, neck, chest wall, trunk and all four extremities have been described in some cases, with one or more of these muscle groups predominating in each individual case. Results of electroencephalographic studies suggest that these muscle movements are a manifestation of disinhibition of cortical activity; cortical electroencephalograms, taken during periods when these muscle movements were observed, have failed to reveal seizure activity.
b. Other movements are described as either unilateral or having a predominance of activity of one side over the other. These movements sometimes resemble a localized response to some stimuli, such as venous pain on injection, in the lightly anesthetized patient (averting movements). Any muscle group or groups may be involved, but a predominance of movement of the arm in which the intravenous infusion is started is frequently noted.
c. Still other movements probably represent a mixture of the first two types.
Skeletal muscle movements appear to be more frequent in patients who also manifest venous
pain on injection.
OTHER ADVERSE OBSERVATIONS
Respiratory System: Hyperventilation, hypoventilation, apnea of short duration (5 to 90 seconds with spontaneous recovery); laryngospasm, hiccup and snoring suggestive of partial upper airway obstruction have been observed in some patients. These conditions were managed by conventional countermeasures.
Circulatory System: Hypertension, hypotension, tachycardia, bradycardia and other arrhythmias have occasionally been observed during induction and maintenance of anesthesia. One case of severe hypotension and tachycardia, judged to be anaphylactoid in character, has been reported.
(Reference: M. Sold and A. Rothhammer, Anaesthetist 34:208-210, 1985. Submitted to NDA 18-228 on 16 May 1985).
Geriatric patients, particularly those with hypertension, may be at increased risk for the development of cardiac depression following etomidate administration (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY).
Gastrointestinal System: Postoperative nausea and/or vomiting following induction of anesthesia with etomidate is probably no more frequent than the general incidence. When etomidate was used for both induction and maintenance of anesthesia in short procedures such as dilation and curettage, or when insufficient analgesia was provided, the incidence of postoperative nausea and/or vomiting was higher than that noted in control patients who received thiopental.