Dexmedetomidine: the new all-in-one drug in paediatric anaesthesia?

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Purpose of review

Dexmedetomidine is a drug with sedative, anxiolytic, sympatholytic and analgesic properties, which is finding widespread practice in paediatric anaesthesia and related practices. The present review summarizes its pharmacology and current experience with the drug.

Recent findings

Dexmedetomidine is proving useful in many diverse areas in paediatric anaesthesia where its sedative properties are useful for premedication, fibreoptic intubation and radiologic procedures. Its use as an adjunct for balanced anaesthesia where it can decrease the use of other drugs, reduce emergence delirium, postoperative shivering and vomiting. Muted apoptotic neuroprotective effects may realize benefits in neonates. Cardiac conduction delay, an adverse effect, may prove beneficial for arrhythmias after congenital cardiac surgery.


Most of the paediatric published studies concerning dexmedetomidine are observational in nature, with limited control groups or comparators. Adverse effects (e.g. bradycardia) still require greater scrutiny in the paediatric population and particularly with respect to different age groups. Dexmedetomidine currently has a firm position in the armamentarium of anaesthesia pharmacology. It is not the new all-in-one drug, but it is shaping up as a valuable adjunct for diverse indications within paediatric anaesthesia.

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