This was an open label pseudo-randomized trial of propofol (1mg/kg) vs. standard therapy for migraine in a single busy ED in Melbourne.
Patients were included if the treating doctor thought they would require intravenous medication.
Patients were excluded if there was not a resuscitation bay available and a few other things.
The primary outcome was time to discharge from the ED or short stay unit. This is obviously not a patient-oriented outcome and subject to bias due to lack of blinding.
Over 28 months they enrolled 30 patients (one excluded in analysis due to missing data).
The time to discharge was about 5 hours in the propofol arm and 9 hours in the usual care arm. (P=0.021). The authors conclude that patients go home quicker.
There are some MAJOR problems with this study, mostly to do with study design, safety, efficacy, feasibility, and ethics.
There are substantial challenges to using propofol for migraine. It requires a set up for deep procedural sedation. It needs senior clinicians, airway nurses, and a resuscitation room for probably 30 minutes at a minimum. What are the harms to all the other patients in the ED that we are now potentially neglecting?
It is self-evident that the clinicians considered this as they were only able to enroll one patient a month for a common condition in a busy tertiary hospital.
In addition, with only 30 patients enrolled it cannot make any claims about efficacy or safety. Of the 15 patients who got propofol, six patients required additional medications. Two patients required airway maneuvers to maintain oxygenation & ventilation.
I am a bit surprised this study was granted ethical approval. But obviously there are differing opinions.
For now, please do NOT give propofol for migraine!
Mitra B, Roman C, Mercier E, et al. Propofol for migraine in the emergency department: A pilot randomised controlled trial. Emerg Med Aus 2020;32:542-547. [link to article]