Dexmedetomidine has shaken up the usual sedatives in ICU but remains a matter of debate among intensivists. One question is whether the higher costs compared to midazolam are justified by clinical advantages. There is research available suggesting that dexmedetomidine might be an attractive alternative to standard sedatives especially in regards of time to extubation and costs (Turinen et al., Jacob et al.). This seems to hold true for moderate to light sedation of intubated patients.
I've stepped over this prospective, double-blind, randomised trial by Riker et al. in which 68 centres in 5 countries recruited intubated 366 patients to received moderate to light sedation with either dexmedetomidine or midazolam. All patients received daily arousal assessment.
Their primary end point was the percentage of time within the target sedation range (RASS score −2 to +1) and this did not differ between the two groups.
Looking at the secondary endpoints though make things a lot more interesting. Just before the beginning of the sedation period both groups had a similar prevalence of delirium. During study drug administration though, the effect of dexmedetomidine treatment on delirium was significant. A reduction of 24.9% with dexmedetomidine is rather impressive (see figure below). This effect was even greater in patients who were CAM-ICU-positive at baseline.
Finally patients on dexmedetomidine had shorter time to extubation (1.9 days in average) while their length of stay on ICU did not differ.
From a safety point of view the most common adverse effect of dexmedetomidine was bradycardia. It's noteworthy that patients on midazolam had more episodes of hypotension and tachycardia.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- This is another study indicating that dexmedetomidine seems to be beneficial in regards of delirium in mechanically ventilated patients and might speed up time to extubation
- Dexmedetomidine is safe in patients where moderate to light sedation is the aim
Riker et al. JAMA. 2009;301(5):489-499. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.56 OPEN ACCESS
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