Is The Anesthetic Propofol Dangerous for People With Soy or Egg Allergies?


Food allergens show up in some unexpected places. For example, did you know that the common general anesthetic Propofol (also known as Dipivan) contains soybean oil and egg proteins?

Propofol is administered intravenously and is therefore a fluid. The base of this fluid is soybean oil.  According to Dr. Steven Ganzberg of Ohio State University, the soybean oil is “highly purified and contains very minute trace quantities, if any, of soy protein.”

Propofol also contains a fatty substance called egg lecithin. Egg lecithin is found in the yolk, whereas the two proteins responsible for allergic reactions, ovomucoid and ovalbumin, are actually found in the egg white.

Furthermore, the AAAAI says that food allergies are caused by proteins found in foods, not by fats or oils in those foods. Soybean oil and egg lecithin (a lipid, or fat) therefore would not be expected to induce an allergic reaction in any form.

Thanks to this information, it may no longer come as a surprise to learn that Propofol is not a major risk factor for allergic reactions or anaphylaxis in patients with soy or egg allergies.

Reactions Can Occur With Anesthesia But Are Unlikely to Be Caused By Soy or Egg Allergies

It’s important to note that reactions like hives or anaphylaxis can occur alongside the use of Propofol. However, the AAAAI notes that these incidences typically occur in patients without any history of soy or egg allergies. It’s also difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of such a reaction, because multiple medications are often administered with an anesthetic, such as pain medication, and all of these factors can work together to trigger a reaction in some patients. It’s also possible for some people to be allergic to Propofol itself.

It’s Okay to Continue to Be Cautious

As the parent of a child with food allergies, avoiding allergens is a survivalist instinct. Even though Propofol has not been shown to be a danger to those with egg or soy allergies, it is understandable that you may want to avoid this anesthetic.

Even knowing that the soy- and egg-derived ingredients in Propofol should not trigger an allergic reaction, some doctors would still choose an alternative anesthesia for soy- or egg-allergic patients.

Gaseous anesthetics and alternative intravenous anesthetics can be used instead of Propofol. Talk to your child’s doctor about your concerns and request an anesthetic that both you and your doctor are comfortable using.