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Critically ill and anesthetized patients commonly receive life-sustaining medications by pump-driven continuous intravenous infusion. Microinfusion refers to delivering concentrated drugs with low flow carriers to conserve fluid administration. Most infused medications are water-soluble. Delivery onset lag times have been identified for microinfusions of water-soluble drugs or experimental surrogates. Drugs may be formulated as emulsions. Initiation of emulsion microinfusions has not been described. We tested in vitro the hypothesis that an emulsion's physical characteristics would influence its microinfusion delivery onset. We adapted an established in vitro model of pump-driven continuous intravenous microinfusion to compare the delivery of methylene blue as a surrogate for water-soluble drugs and a 10% lipid emulsion as a surrogate for a drug formulated as an emulsion. The drug surrogates joined the carrier with carrier flow vertically upwards, vertically downwards or horizontally. We measured the times to 5%, 50% and 95% of plateau delivery. Emulsion entry into a vertical (upwards) carrier flow resulted in a rapid initial emulsion delivery exceeding predictions of delivery models. Emulsion entry into both horizontal and vertical (downwards) carrier flows resulted in long lag times to steady state. Methylene blue delivery was unaffected by carrier flow orientation. Initiating microinfusion emulsion delivery with upward flow can result in a relative bolus, whereas long delivery lags would be expected with horizontal or downwards flow. An emulsion might carry a high potency drug having significant physiologic effects, e. g. clevidipine. Unrecognized, differences in initial emulsion delivery kinetics depending on carrier flow orientation may have clinical implications for both efficacy and safety.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Pharm Sci

Publication Date





Intravenous microinfusion Hemodynamic medication infusions Emulsion infusion Medication infusion delivery onset Flow direction, Administration, Intravenous, Drug Delivery Systems, Emulsions, Equipment Design, Humans, Infusions, Intravenous