Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP Last updated on RxList: 5/17/2023

Drug Summary

What Is Etomidate?

Etomidate is a hypnotic drug given by intravenous injection for the induction of general anesthesia. Intravenous etomidate is also indicated for the supplementation of subpotent-anesthetic agents, such as nitrous oxide in oxygen, during maintenance of anesthesia for short operative procedures such as dilation and curettage or cervical conization. Etomidate is available in generic form.

What Are Side Effects of Etomidate?

Etomidate may cause serious side effects including:

  • hives,
  • difficulty breathing,
  • swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat,
  • uncontrolled, irregular, and nonrhythmic eye movement,
  • extreme fatigue,
  • weight loss,
  • decreased appetite,
  • darkening of the skin,
  • salt craving,
  • low blood pressure,
  • nausea,
  • diarrhea,
  • vomiting,
  • abdominal pain,
  • muscle or joint pains,
  • irritability,
  • depression,
  • hair loss (in women),
  • sexual dysfunction (in women),
  • gasping for air during sleep,
  • dry mouth,
  • difficulty staying asleep (insomnia),
  • fluttering in the chest,
  • chest pain,
  • fainting,
  • dizziness,
  • fast or slow breathing,
  • lightheadedness,
  • weakness,
  • confusion,
  • shortness of breath,
  • burping,
  • muscle spasms in the hands and feet,
  • numbness and tingling in the arms or around the mouth,
  • problems sleeping,
  • high blood pressure,
  • low blood pressure,
  • cough,
  • wheezing, and
  • bluish color in the skin, fingernails, and lips

Get medical help right away, if you have any of the symptoms listed above.

Common side effects of etomidate include:

  • injection site pain,
  • temporary muscle movements,
  • fast or slow breathing,
  • hiccups,
  • snoring,
  • high or low blood pressure,
  • fast or slow heart rate,
  • arrhythmias, and
  • postoperative nausea or vomiting.

Seek medical care or call 911 at once if you have the following serious side effects:

  • Serious eye symptoms such as sudden vision loss, blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights;
  • Serious heart symptoms such as fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeats; fluttering in your chest; shortness of breath; and sudden dizziness, lightheadedness, or passing out;
  • Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, arm or leg weakness, trouble walking, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady, very stiff muscles, high fever, profuse sweating, or tremors.

This document does not contain all possible side effects and others may occur. Check with your physician for additional information about side effects.

Dosage for Etomidate

The dose of etomidate for induction of anesthesia in adult patients and in pediatric patients above the age of ten (10) years will vary between 0.2 and 0.6 mg/kg of body weight, and it must be individualized in each case. The usual dose of etomidate for induction in these patients is 0.3 mg/kg, injected over a period of 30 to 60 seconds.

What Drugs, Substances, or Supplements Interact with Etomidate?

Etomidate may interact with other drugs. Tell your doctor all medications and supplements you use.

Etomidate During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant before using etomidate; it is unknown how it will affect a fetus. It is unknown if etomidate passes into breast milk. Consult your doctor before breastfeeding.

Additional Information

Our Etomidate Injection Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.

Drug Description


Etomidate Injection, USP is a sterile, nonpyrogenic solution. Each milliliter contains etomidate USP, 2 mg, propylene glycol 35% v/v. The pH is 6.0 (4.0 to 7.0).It is intended for the induction of general anesthesia by intravenous injection.

The drug etomidate is chemically identified as (R)-(+)-ethyl-1-(1-phenylethyl)-1H-imidazole-5- carboxylate and has the following structural formula:

ETOMIDATE - Structural Formula Illustration

Indications & Dosage


Etomidate Injection, USP is indicated by intravenous injection for the induction of general anesthesia. When considering use of etomidate, the usefulness of its hemodynamic properties (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY) should be weighed against the high frequency of transient skeletal muscle movements (see ADVERSE REACTIONS).

Intravenous etomidate is also indicated for the supplementation of subpotent anesthetic agents, such as nitrous oxide in oxygen, during maintenance of anesthesia for short operative procedures such as dilation and curettage or cervical conization.


Do not administer unless solution is clear and container is undamaged. Discard unused portion (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).

Etomidate Injection, USP is intended for administration only by the intravenous route (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY). The dose for induction of anesthesia in adult patients and in pediatric patients above the age of ten (10) years will vary between 0.2 mg/kg and 0.6 mg/kg of body weight, and it must be individualized in each case. The usual dose for induction in these patients is 0.3 mg/kg, injected over a period of 30 to 60 seconds. There are inadequate data to make dosage recommendations for induction of anesthesia in patients below the age of ten (10) years; therefore, such use is not recommended. Geriatric patients may require reduced doses of etomidate.

Smaller increments of intravenous etomidate may be administered to adult patients during short operative procedures to supplement subpotent anesthetic agents, such as nitrous oxide. The dosage employed under these circumstances, although usually smaller than the original induction dose, must be individualized. There are insufficient data to support this use of etomidate for longer adult procedures or for any procedures in pediatric patients; therefore, such use is not recommended. The use of intravenous fentanyl and other neuroactive drugs employed during the conduct of anesthesia may alter the etomidate dosage requirements. Consult the prescribing information for all other such drugs before using.


Etomidate is compatible with commonly administered pre-anesthetic medications, which may be employed as indiccated. See also CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, ADVERSE REACTIONS, and dosage recommendations for maintenance of anesthesia.

Etomidate anesthesia does not significantly alter the usual dosage requirements of neuromuscular blocking agents employed for endotracheal intubation or other purposes shortly after induction of anesthesia.

Parenteral drug products should be inspected visually for particulate matter and discoloration prior to administration, whenever solution and container permit.

To prevent needle-stick injuries, needles should not be recapped, purposely bent, or broken by hand.


Etomidate Injection, USP is supplied as follows:

NDC No. Etomidate Injection, USP (2 mg/mL) Package Factor
72266-146-10 20 mg/10 mL (2 mg/mL) Single-Dose Vial 10 vials per carton
72266-147-10 40 mg/20 mL (2 mg/mL) Single-Dose Vial 10 vials per carton

Store at 20° to 25°C (68° to 77°F). [See USP Controlled Room Temperature.]

Distributed by: Fosun Pharma USA Inc.Princeton, NJ 08540. Revised: Jul 2019

Side Effects & Drug Interactions


The most frequent adverse reactions associated with use of intravenous etomidate are transient venous pain on injection and transient skeletal muscle movements, including myoclonus:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 etomidateis 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.


No information provided.

Overdose & Contraindications


Overdosage may occur from too rapid or repeated injections. Too rapid injection may be followed by a fall in blood pressure. No adverse cardiovascular or respiratory effects attributable to etomidate overdose have been reported.

In the event of suspected or apparent overdosage, the drug should be discontinued, a patent airway established (intubate, if necessary) or maintained and oxygen administered with assisted ventilation, if necessary.


Etomidate is contraindicated in patients who have shown hypersensitivity to it.

Clinical Pharmacology


Etomidate is a hypnotic drug without analgesic activity. Intravenous injection of etomidate produces hypnosis characterized by a rapid onset of action, usually within one minute. Duration of hypnosis is dose dependent but relatively brief, usually three to five minutes when an average dose of 0.3 mg/kg is employed. Immediate recovery from anesthesia (as assessed by awakening time, time needed to follow simple commands and time to perform simple tests after anesthesia as well as they were performed before anesthesia), based upon data derived from short operative procedures where intravenous etomidate was used for both induction and maintenance of anesthesia, is about as rapid as, or slightly faster than, immediate recovery after similar use of thiopental. These same data revealed that the immediate recovery period will usually be shortened in adult patients by the intravenous administration of approximately 0.1 mg of intravenous fentanyl, one or two minutes before induction of anesthesia, probably because less etomidate is generally required under these circumstances (consult the package insert for fentanyl before using).

The most characteristic effect of intravenous etomidate on the respiratory system is a slight elevation in arterial carbon dioxide tension (PaCO2). See also ADVERSE REACTIONS.

Reduced cortisol plasma levels have been reported with induction doses of 0.3 mg/kg etomidate. These persist for approximately 6 to 8 hours and appear to be unresponsive to ACTH administration.

The intravenous administration of up to 0.6 mg/kg of etomidate to patients with severe cardiovascular disease has little or no effect on myocardial metabolism, cardiac output, peripheral circulation or pulmonary circulation. The hemodynamic effects of etomidate have in most cases been qualitatively similar to those of thiopental sodium, except that the heart rate tended to increase by a moderate amount following administration of thiopental under conditions where there was little or no change in heart rate following administration of etomidate. However, clinical data indicates that etomidate administration in geriatric patients, particularly those with hypertension, may result in decreases in heart rate, cardiac index, and mean arterial blood pressure. There are insufficient data concerning use of etomidate in patients with recent severe trauma or hypovolemia to predict cardiovascular response under such circumstances.

Clinical experience and special studies to date suggest that standard doses of intravenous etomidate ordinarily neither elevate plasma histamine nor cause signs of histamine release.

Limited clinical experience, as well as animal studies, suggests that inadvertent intra-arterial injection of etomidate, unlike thiobarbiturates, will not usually be followed by necrosis of tissue distal to the injection site. Intra-arterial injection of etomidate is, however, not recommended.

Etomidate induction is associated with a transient 20-30% decrease in cerebral blood flow. This reduction in blood flow appears to be uniform in the absence of intracranial space occupying lesions. As with other intravenous induction agents, reduction in cerebral oxygen utilization is roughly proportional to the reduction in cerebral blood flow. In patients with and without intracranial space occupying lesions, etomidate induction is usually followed by a moderate lowering of intracranial pressure, lasting several minutes. All of these studies provided for avoidance of hypercapnia. Information concerning regional cerebral perfusion in patients with intracranial space occupying lesions is too limited to permit definitive conclusions.

Preliminary data suggests that etomidate will usually lower intraocular pressure moderately.

Etomidate is rapidly metabolized in the liver. Minimal hypnotic plasma levels of unchanged drug are equal to or higher than 0.23 μg/mL; they decrease rapidly up to 30 minutes following injection and thereafter more slowly with a half-life value of about 75 minutes. Approximately 75% of the administered dose is excreted in the urine during the first day after injection. The chief metabolite is R- (+)-1-(1-phenylethyl)-1H-imidazole-5-carboxylic acid, resulting from hydrolysis of etomidate, and accounts for about 80% of the urinary excretion. Limited pharmacokinetic data in patients with cirrhosis and esophagealvarices suggest that the volume of distribution and elimination half-life of etomidate are approximately double that seen in healthy subjects.

(Reference: H. Van Beem, et. al., Anaesthesia 38 (Supp 38:61-62, July 1983).

In clinical studies, elderly patients demonstrated decreased initial distribution volumes and total clearance of etomidate. Protein binding of etomidate to serum albumin was also significantly decreased in these individuals.

Reduced plasma cortisol and aldosterone levels have been reported following induction doses of etomidate. These results persist for approximately 6-8 hours and appear to be unresponsive to ACTH stimulation. This probably represents blockage of 11 beta-hydroxylation within the adrenal cortex. (References: 1. R.J. Fragen, et. al., Anesthesiology 61:652-656, 1984. 2. R.L. Wagner & P.F. White, Anesthesiology 61:647-651, 1984. 3. F.H. DeJong, et. al., Clin. Endocrinology and Metabolism 59:(6):1143-1147, 1984, and three additional drafts of Metabolic Studies, all submitted to NDA 18-228 on April 1, 1985).

Medication Guide


Effect Of Anesthetic And Sedation Drugs On Early Brain Development

Studies conducted in young animals and children suggest repeated or prolonged use of general anesthetic or sedation drugs in children younger than 3 years may have negative effects on their developing brains. Discuss with parents and caregivers the benefits, risks, and timing and duration of surgery or procedures requiring anesthetic and sedation drugs (see WARNINGS, Pediatric Neurotoxicity).

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Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.