Initial experience with dexmedetomidine for diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterization in children

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Children undergoing diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterization require deep sedation or general anesthesia (GA). Dexmedetomidine, a selective alpha-2 adrenergic agonist, has sedative, analgesic and anxiolytic properties without respiratory depression. These characteristics make it potentially suitable as a sedative agent during diagnostic procedures in children. We report our experience using dexmedetomidine in 20 children aged 3 months to 10 years undergoing cardiac catheterization.


Following a midazolam premedication, intravenous access was secured facilitated by the inhalation of sevoflurane in oxygen. A loading dose of 1 μg·kg−1 dexmedetomidine was administered over 10 min followed by an initial infusion rate of 1 μg·kg−1·h−1. Nasal cannulae were applied, allowing endtidal CO2 monitoring with the patients breathing spontaneously. Hemodynamic parameters, Bispectral Index Score (BIS) and sedation score were measured every 5 min. Patient movement or evidence of inadequate sedation were treated with propofol (1 mg·kg−1). The dexmedetomidine infusion rate was titrated to the level of sedation to a maximum of 2 μg·kg−1·h−1 to maintain a sedation score of 4–5 and a BIS value <80.


Five patients (25%) had some movement on local infiltration or groin vessel access. This did not necessitate restraint or result in difficulty securing vascular access. No patients failed sedation that required the addition of another sedative agent or conversion to GA; eight patients were sedated with dexmedetomidine alone; however, 12 (60%) patients did receive a propofol bolus at some time during the procedure due to movement, increasing BIS value or in anticipation of stimulation. There were no incidences of airway obstruction or respiratory depression. In all cases the heart rate and blood pressure remained within 20% of baseline. No patient required treatment for profound bradycardia or hypotension. The average infusion rate for dexmedetomidine following the loading dose was 1.15 (±0.29)μg·kg−1·h−1 (range 0.6–2.0 μg·kg−1·h−1).


This initial experience showed dexmedetomidine, with or without the addition of propofol, may be a suitable alternative for sedation in spontaneously breathing patients undergoing cardiac catheterization.

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