Clinical uses of dexmedetomidine in pediatric patients

Hanna Phan, Milap C. Nahata

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Dexmedetomidine is being used off-label as an adjunctive agent for sedation and analgesia in pediatric patients in the critical care unit and for sedation during non-invasive procedures in radiology. It also has a potential role as part of anesthesia care to prevent emergence delirium and postanesthesia shivering. Dexmedetomidine is currently approved by the US FDA for sedation only in adults undergoing mechanical ventilation for <24 hours. Pediatric experiences in the literature are in the form of small studies and case reports. In patients sedated for mechanical ventilation and/or opioid/benzodiazepine withdrawal, the loading dose ranged from 0.5 to 1 μg/kg and was usually administered over 10 minutes, although not all patients received loading doses. This patient group also received a continuous infusion at rates ranging from 0.2 to 2 μg/kg/h, with higher rates used in burn patients and those with withdrawal following ≥24 hours of opioid/benzodiazepine infusion. The dexmedetomidine dosage used for anesthesia and sedation during non-invasive procedures, such as radiologic studies, ranged from a loading dose of 1-2 μg/kg followed by a continuous infusion at 0.5-1.14 μg/kg/h, with most patients spontaneously breathing. For invasive procedures, such as awake craniotomy or cardiac catheterization, dosage ranged from a loading dose of 0.15 to 1 μg/kg followed by a continuous infusion at 0.1-2 μg/kg/h. Adverse hemodynamic and respiratory effects were minimal; the agent was well tolerated in most patients. The efficacy of dexmedetomidine varied depending on the clinical situation: efficacy was greatest during non-invasive procedures, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and lowest during invasive procedures, such as cardiac catheterization. Dexmedetomidine may be useful in pediatric patients for sedation in a variety of clinical situations. The literature suggests potential use of dexmedetomidine as an adjunctive agent to other sedatives during mechanical ventilation and opioid/benzodiazepine withdrawal. In addition, because of its minimal respiratory effects, dexmedetomidine has also been used as a single agent for sedation during non-invasive procedures such as MRI. However, additional studies in pediatric patients are warranted to further evaluate its safety and efficacy in all age ranges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-69
Number of pages21
JournalPediatric Drugs
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


  • Adolescents
  • Anaesthesia
  • Burns, treatment
  • Cardiovascular disorders, treatment
  • Children
  • Delirium, prevention
  • Dexmedetomidine, pharmacodynamics
  • Dexmedetomidine, pharmacokinetics
  • Dexmedetomidine, therapeutic use
  • Sedation
  • Shivering, prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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