Dexmedetomidine is most often used in the intensive care setting for light to moderate sedation. It is not recommended for long-term deep sedation. A feature of dexmedetomidine is that it has analgesic properties in addition to its role as a hypnotic, but is opioid sparing; thus, it is not associated with significant respiratory depression (unlike propofol).
Many studies suggest dexmedetomidine for sedation in mechanically ventilated adults may reduce time to extubation and ICU stay.People on dexmedetomidine can be rousable and cooperative, a benefit in some procedures.
Compared with other sedatives, some studies suggest dexmedetomidine may be associated with less delirium. However, this finding is not consistent across multiple studies. At the very least, when aggregating many study results together, use of dexmedetomidine appears to be associated with less neurocognitive dysfunction compared to other sedatives.Whether this observation has a beneficial psychological impact is unclear. From an economic perspective, dexmedetomidine is associated with lower ICU costs, largely due to a shorter time to extubation.
Dexmedetomidine can also be used for procedural sedation such as during colonoscopy. It can be used as an adjunct with other sedatives like benzodiazepines, opioids, and propofol to enhance sedation and help maintain hemodynamic stability by decreasing the requirement of other sedatives. Dexmedetomidine is also used for procedural sedation in children.
There is weak evidence that it can be used for sedation required for awake fibreoptic nasal intubation in patients with a difficult airway. Dexmedetomidine may be useful for the treatment of the negative cardiovascular effects of acute amphetamines and cocaine intoxication and overdose. Dexmedetomidine has also been used as an adjunct to neuroaxial anesthesia for lower limb procedures.
Intravenous infusion of dexmedetomidine is commonly initiated with a loading dose followed by a maintenance infusion. There may be great individual variability in the hemodynamic effects (especially on heart rate and blood pressure), as well as the sedative effects of this drug. For this reason, the dose must be carefully adjusted to achieve the desired clinical effect.
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