Discovered at Janssen Pharmaceutica in 1961, droperidol is a butyrophenone, and is a potent D2 (dopamine receptor) antagonist with some histamine and serotonin antagonist activity. It has a central antiemetic action and effectively prevents postoperative nausea and vomiting in adults using doses as low as 0.625 mg. It has also been used as an antipsychotic in doses ranging from 5 to 10 mg given as an intramuscular injection, generally in cases of severe agitation in a psychotic patient who is refusing oral medication. Its use in intramuscular sedation has been replaced by intramuscular preparations of haloperidol, midazolam, clonazepam and olanzapine. Some practitioners recommend the use of 0.5 mg to 1 mg intravenously for the treatment of vertigo in an otherwise healthy elderly patients who have not responded to Epley maneuvers.
In 2001, the FDA changed the labeling requirements for droperidol injection to include a Black Box Warning, citing concerns of QT prolongation and torsades de pointes. The evidence for this is disputed, with 9 reported cases of torsades in 30 years and all of those having received doses in excess of 5 mg. QT prolongation is a dose-related effect, and it appears that droperidol is not a significant risk in low doses.
Droperidol is synthesized from 1-benzyl-3-carbethoxypiperidin-4-one, which is reacted with o-phenylendiamine. Evidently, the first derivative that is formed under the reaction conditions, 1,5-benzdiazepine, rearranges into 1-(1-benzyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydro-4-piridyl)-2-benzymidazolone. Debenzylation of the resulting product with hydrogen over a palladium catalyst, and subsequent alkylation of this using 4-chloro-4'-fluorobutyrophenone yields droperidol.
^Domino KB, Anderson EA, Polissar NL, Posner KL (June 1999). "Comparative efficacy and safety of ondansetron, droperidol, and metoclopramide for preventing postoperative nausea and vomiting: a meta-analysis". Anesthesia and Analgesia88 (6): 1370–9. doi:10.1097/00000539-000000000-00000. PMID10357347.
^Kao LW, Kirk MA, Evers SJ, Rosenfeld SH (April 2003). "Droperidol, QT prolongation, and sudden death: what is the evidence?". Annals of Emergency Medicine41 (4): 546–58. doi:10.1067/mem.2003.110. PMID12658255.
^Lischke V, Behne M, Doelken P, Schledt U, Probst S, Vettermann J (November 1994). "Droperidol causes a dose-dependent prolongation of the QT interval". Anesthesia and Analgesia79 (5): 983–6. doi:10.1213/00000539-000000000-00000. PMID7978420.
Scuderi PE: Droperidol: Many questions, few answers. Anesthesiology 2003; 98: 289-90
Lischke V, Behne M, Doelken P, Schledt U, Probst S, Vettermann J. Droperidol causes a dose-dependent prolongation of the QT interval. Department of Anesthesiology and Resuscitation, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Clinics, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.