Use of dexmedetomidine in the pediatric intensive care unit

Marcia L Buck, Douglas F Willson
Pharmacotherapy 2008, 28 (1): 51-7

STUDY OBJECTIVE: To determine the safety, effectiveness, and dosing of dexmedetomidine in intensive care infants and children who require sedation, and the rationale for patient selection.

DESIGN: Prospective observational study.

SETTING: Eleven-bed pediatric intensive care unit in a university-affiliated children's hospital.

PATIENTS: Seventeen infants and children who received dexmedetomidine consecutively between May 4, 2005, and May 4, 2006.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Data were collected on demographics, blood pressure and heart rate measurements, and adverse effects. The rationale for dexmedetomidine use, its dosing, use of other sedatives, and treatment duration were also recorded. Twenty treatment courses in 17 patients (median age 5 mo, range 1 mo-17 yrs) were evaluated. Ten patients (59%) had chronic neurologic impairments (including Down syndrome in nine [53%]). Thirteen (76%) had undergone cardiac surgery, two (12%) had respiratory failure, one (6%) had endocarditis, and one (6%) had undergone scoliosis repair. In 15 (75%) of 20 cases, dexmedetomidine was started to minimize the use of midazolam before extubation; in 13 (87%) of these cases, the patients were extubated within 24 hours. The remaining patients could not tolerate midazolam, and dexmedetomidine was used as an alternative. No loading doses were given. The mean +/- SD starting dose was 0.2 +/- 0.2 microg/kg/hour, with a maximum of 0.5 +/- 0.2 microg/kg/hour. Mean +/- SD duration was 32 +/- 21 hours (range 3-75 hrs); 10 courses exceeded 24 hours. Mean arterial pressures before and after starting treatment were not significantly different (p=0.76), nor were values at discontinuation (p=0.31) or 12 hours later (p=0.29). No significant differences were noted in heart rate at the start (p=0.09), at discontinuation (p=0.06), or 12 hours later (p=0.17). One patient (6%) developed hypotension; no other adverse effects were noted.

CONCLUSION: With careful patient selection and a conservative approach to dosing, dexmedetomidine was a useful sedative in children requiring mechanical ventilation. It allowed for a reduction or elimination of other sedatives, and it was particularly useful in children with chronic neurologic impairments. Dexmedetomidine was well tolerated, with no clinically significant effects on blood pressure or heart rate.

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