Health Guide

Thiopental (By injection)

Thiopental (thye-oh-PEN-tal)

Used either by itself or with another medicine to make you unconscious (fall asleep) before surgery or other medical procedures. Also used to control seizures brought on by anesthesia or other causes. May also be used to help a person relax during analysis for mental disorders. This medicine is a type of anesthetic.

Brand Name(s):


There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used:

You should not receive this medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to thiopental or other barbiturates, or if you have certain types of porphyria. You might not be able to use this medicine if you have anemia, asthma, heart disease, low blood pressure, or an underactive thyroid. You might not be able to use this medicine if you have liver or kidney disease, myasthenia gravis, Addison's disease, or high levels of urea in your blood.

How to Use This Medicine:


  • A nurse or other health provider will give you this medicine.
  • Your doctor will prescribe your dose and schedule. This medicine is given through a needle placed in a vein.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Tell your doctor if you are using aminophylline, diazoxide (Hyperstat®), midazolam (Versed®), probenecid (Benemid®), or zimelidine. You doctor will need to know if you are using any medicines to treat pain such as codeine, morphine, or hydrocodone (Vicodin®).

Warnings While Using This Medicine:

  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Tell your doctor if you have problems with your endocrine system. This system is made up of glands that produce hormones to control body functions. Endocrine system problems include diabetes, thyroid problems, or growth problems. Make sure your doctor knows if you have any muscle problems such as Kearns-Sayre Syndrome (paralysis of some or all of the muscles of the eye) or myasthenia gravis.
  • This medicine can be habit-forming. Do not use more than your prescribed dose. Call your doctor if you think your medicine is not working.
  • This medicine may make you dizzy or drowsy. Avoid driving, using machines, or doing anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert. If you have had outpatient surgery, you will need someone to drive you home.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, or coughing up blood.
  • Decrease in how much or how often you urinate.
  • Numbness, pain, or weakness in your arm or leg, or on one side of your body.
  • Pain, itching, burning, or swelling where the needle is placed.
  • Unusual bleeding, bruising, or weakness.
  • Unusually fast or slow heartbeat or breathing.

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Drowsiness or dizziness.
  • Shivering.
  • Sneezing or coughing more than usual.

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Last Updated: 7/4/2018
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