D. John Doyle 

MIDAZOLAM: Executive Summary

Midazolam is a short-acting, water soluble benzodiazepine (t╫ = 1.7-4 h
vs. 20-70 h for diazepam) with sedative, hypnotic, anxiolytic and marked
amnestic properties making it suitable for dental, endoscopic and
diagnostic procedures or as an adjunct to regional or general
anaesthesia. Because it is water soluble, there is minimal pain on
injection or venous thrombosis when given intravenously. Unlike
diazepam, it can be given intramuscularly, but an oral preparation of
midazolam is not available. The drug is 3-4 times as potent as diazepam,
and much more expensive ($3.00 for 5 mg). 

Clinical Properties Of MIDAZOLAM

Midazolam is a benzodiazepine with a fused imidazole ring which makes it
different from the earlier benzodiazepines, and accounts for its
stability in aqueous solution and its rapid metabolism. The table below
gives some of its properties. 


structure: imidazo benzodiazepine 

molecular weight: 362 

pKa: 6.15 

compatibility: D5W, Saline, Ringer's 

plasma protein binding: 96 - 97% 

pharmacokinetics (healthy patients) 

steady state volume of distribution: 0.8 - 1.5 L/kg 

plasma clearance: 6 - 9 ml/min/kg 

elimination half-life: 1.7 - 4 hrs 

metabolism: hydroxylation/ conjugation 

Cerebral Effects

Midazolam reduces the cerebral metabolic rate for oxygen (CMRO2) and
cerebral blood flow (CBF) in a dose-related manner. The
electroencephalogram (EEG) shows a shift to beta activity (16 - 30 Hz).
Midazolam also results in dose-related protection against cerebral
hypoxia, at least in mice exposed to 5% oxygen. Following midazolam
administration, little change in intracranial pressure (ICP) occurs in
patients with intracranial mass lesions or decreased intracranial
compliance, but midazolam does not protect against ICP increases
following intubation or the administration of ketamine. As such,
midazolam would appear to be an acceptable alternative to thiopental in
patients with elevated intracranial pressure. 

Behavioural Effects

Depending on the dose given, patient effects may range from slight
sedation to complete unconsciousness. Performance of psychomotor tests
(e.g., choice reaction time, critical flicker fusion, digit symbol test)
are impaired. Clinically, mental slowing and slurred speech may be
apparent. Antegrade amnesia, as studied by postcard testing, occurs to a
large extent, especially in the first 15 minutes following an
administered dose (vide infra). 

Amnestic Effects

The profound amnestic effect which often occurs with midazolam use may
be either beneficial or detrimental to the patient, depending on
circumstances. Situations where the amnestic effect is desirable
include: (1) suspected intraoperative awareness, (2) where repeated
uncomforatble procedures are necessary (e.g. bronchoscopic monitoring
after lung transplantation), (3) where a painful procedure must be
carried out in the absence of general anaesthesia (e.g. cardioversion in
the conscious hypotensive patient with ventricular tachycardia) or (4)
in any patient who "just doesn't want to remember what went on".
Situations where the amnestic effect is undesirable include (1)
obstetrical anaesthesia (most mothers wish to recall their birth
experience), and (2) where patients must remember to follow specific
instructions postoperatively. 

The amnestic effects of midazolam may even occur at doses which do not
result in full sedation, and these effects may last for many hours after
the procedure is completed and the patient appears to be fully awake.
Any postoperative patient instructions should be in writing. Do not loan
patients money during this period. 

Respiratory Effects

Midazolam produces dose-related respiratory depression as evidenced by
laboratory studies and reports of clinical misadventures. In healthy
volunteers given midazolam at 0.15 mg/kg the ventilatory response to
inspired CO2 was impaired. (In COPD patients the effect is stronger and
lasts much longer than in healthy volunteers). Midazolam appears to have
no effect on respiratory mechanics, suggesting that the respiratory
depression is CNS mediated. In a survey from many studies, the incidence
of midazolam- induced apnea varied from 18 to 78% depending on the dose
and speed of administration (faster = more apnea). Apnea is more
frequent with narcotic premedication. In IV doses of 0.1 mg/kg in
healthy volunteers, tidal volumes decrease while respiratory rates
increase to keep minute volume constant. 

MIDAZOLAM In The Induction Of General Anaesthesia

Midazolam may be used in conjunction with other agents ("co-induction")
or alone to induce general anaesthesia. Premedication with a narcotic is
frequently used to increase the speed and predictability of induction
and the rapidity of recovery. The faster the injection of midazolam, the
more rapid the induction. With slow injection, induction of anaesthesia
is prolonged and the total dose may be needlessly increased, adversely
affecting patient recovery. Onset of action of midazolam is slower than
for thiopental (1 - 2 minutes vs. 30 - 40 seconds), which some patients
perceive as a more pleasant induction. However, this property makes the
drug unsuitable for rapid sequence inductions. The duration of action
for midazolam in this setting is about 6 - 15 minutes, as opposed to the
3 - 5 minutes obtained with thiopental. This allows plenty of time to
add additional agents for the maintenance phase of the anaesthetic. 

One problem with midazolam used for the induction of general anaesthesia
is the fairly wide dosing range encountered, depending on whether the
patient is premedicated, whether concomitant use of narcotics is
employed, and on the age and health of the patient. Further complicating
this is the fact that the dose may need to be increased for chronic
users of alcohol or benzodiazepines and reduced for patients who have
recently taken barbiturates, alcohol, CNS depressants, or who are
chronic cimetidine users. 

The actual delivery of the drug generally involves a two stage process:
(1) the drug is given as a single bolus injection over 5 seconds (see
Table below) and (2) wait two minutes and if the patient is not yet
asleep, give another ╪ of the initial dose or add 1 - 2 mg/kg of
thiopental to complete the induction. 

Rough dosage guidelines for anaesthetic induction with midazolam 

				Premedicated		Not premedicated

ASA I-II and age < 55	0.1 to 0.2 mg/kg  	0.3 to 0.35

ASA III-IVor age > 55	0.05 to 0.15 mg/kg	0.15 to 0.25

Because midazolam has no analgesic properties, it is helpful to proceed
the midazolam with 1 -2 mcg/kg of fentanyl or to use an IM narcotic for

Recovery of consciousness following anaesthetic induction with midazolam
is slower than for thiopental, but is more rapid than with diazepam. In
the outpatient setting, midazolam may be suboptimal as an induction
agent because of lingering postoperative sedation and its profound
amnestic effect. 

MIDAZOLAM Misadventures

From the period of March 1986 (when midazolam was released in the USA),
to August 1988, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received 69
reports of serious cardiorespiratory events associated with the use of
the drug (FDA Drug Bulletin 1988; 18: 15 - 16). This resulted in the
addition of a boxed warning on midazolam labeling to the effect that
respiratory depression and even apnea can occur at doses within the
usual recommended dosage range. This problem appears to be due to two
sources: (1) excessive dosing, likely due to an underestimation of the
potency of midazolam relative to diazepam, and (2) patients given
parenteral midazolam appear more awake than those given diazepam when
they have depressed respiratory function. These findings emphasize the
need for complete monitoring (including pulse oximetry) in all patients
receiving large doses of midazolam for conscious sedation. In addition,
the manufacturer recommends that for IV conscious sedation the drug be
given incrementally (e.g. 0.5 - 1.0 mg at a time) titrated to clinical
effect rather than given in a rapid or single-bolus fashion. These
concerns are especially true in the elderly or frail patient, the
patient with chronic obstructive lung disease (COLD) or with the
concomitant use of other respiratory depressants (e.g. fentanyl).