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Anesthesia for functional neurosurgery: the role of dexmedetomidine

Rozet, Irene

Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology: October 2008 - Volume 21 - Issue 5 - p 537–543
doi: 10.1097/ACO.0b013e32830edafd
Neuroanesthesia: Edited by Arthur Lam

Purpose of review: The purpose of this review is to summarize current approaches to the anesthetic management of functional neurosurgery and to describe the application of an α-2-adrenergic agonist dexmedetomidine in the anesthetic management of functional neurosurgical procedures.

Recent findings: Dexmedetomidine, an α-2-adrenergic agonist, causes a unique kind of sedation, acting on the subcortical areas, which resembles natural sleep without respiratory depression. Experimental data demonstrate both cerebral vasoconstriction and vasodilatation, depending on the model and dose studied. At the clinically relevant doses, dexmedetomidine decreases cerebral blood flow and cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen in healthy volunteers. Clinical experience of dexmedetomidine use in functional neurosurgery is limited to small case-series. Nevertheless, these reports indicate that use of dexmedetomidine does not interfere with electrophysiologic monitoring, thus allowing brain mapping during awake craniotomy and microelectrode recording during implantation of deep-brain stimulators.

Summary: Dexmedetomidine has been demonstrated to provide a successful sedation without impairment of electrophysiologic monitoring in functional neurosurgery. Prospective randomized studies are warranted to delineate an optimal regimen of dexmedetomidine sedation and any dose-related influence on neurophysiologic function.

Department of Anesthesiology, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, Washington, USA

Correspondence to Irene Rozet, MD, Department of Anesthesiology, Harborview Medical Center, 325 Ninth Avenue, Box 359724, Seattle, WA 98104, USA Tel: +1 206 744 3059; fax: +1 206 744 8090; e-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.