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Effects of Dexmedetomidine on Blood Glucose and Serum Potassium Levels in Children Undergoing General Anesthesia: A Secondary Analysis of Safety Endpoints During a Randomized Controlled Trial

Görges, Matthias PhD*,†; Poznikoff, Andrew K. BSc*,‡; West, Nicholas C. MSc*; Brodie, Sonia M. MSc*; Brant, Rollin F. PhD†,§; Whyte, Simon D. MBBS, FRCA, FRCPC*,†,‡

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000004154
Pediatric Anesthesiology: Original Clinical Research Report

BACKGROUND: Dexmedetomidine is a highly selective α2-adrenergic agonist, which is increasingly used in pediatric anesthesia and intensive care. Potential adverse effects that have not been rigorously evaluated in children include its effects on blood glucose and serum potassium concentrations, which are relevant due to the associations of derangements of both parameters with undesired outcomes. We investigated the effects of 3 different doses of dexmedetomidine on these outcomes in a randomized controlled trial in children undergoing elective surgery.

METHODS: Sixty-four American Society of Anesthesiologists I–II children were randomized to receive either dexmedetomidine 0.25 µg/kg, dexmedetomidine 0.5 µg/kg, dexmedetomidine 0.75 µg/kg, or 0 µg/kg (control), as a bolus administered over 60 seconds after induction of anesthesia. Changes in plasma glucose and serum potassium concentrations were measured in venous blood sampled before and at 15 and 30 minutes after study drug administration. Data were plotted within and between groups and analyzed using a constrained longitudinal data approach.

RESULTS: Forty-nine children completed the study. Mean glucose levels at 15 and 30 minutes were elevated with estimated changes from baseline of 0.37 mmol/L (95% CI, 0.29–0.45 mmol/L) and 0.05 mmol/L (95% CI, 0.00–0.10 mmol/L), respectively. At 15 minutes, there was a linear dose–response relationship (1.07 mmol/L/μg/kg [95% CI, 0.57–1.58 mmol/L/μg/kg]), but there was no appreciable effect of dexmedetomidine at 30 minutes (0.15 mmol/L/μg/kg [95% CI, −0.40 to 0.70 mmol/L/μg/kg]). Potassium levels were depressed relative to baseline, with a mean difference at 15 minutes of −0.20 mEq/L (95% CI, −0.28 to −0.12 mEq/L) and at 30 minutes of −0.12 mEq/L (95% CI, −0.15 to −0.08 mEq/L), but there was no appreciable effect of dexmedetomidine at either time.

CONCLUSIONS: Small elevations in glucose and decreases in potassium were observed after induction of anesthesia in children. The elevation in glucose at 15 minutes depended on the dose of dexmedetomidine administered. These preliminary data warrant further investigation.

From the *Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Uni versity of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Research Institute, British Columbia Children’s Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Department of Pediatric Anesthesia, British Columbia Children’s Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

§Department of Statistics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Published ahead of print 26 February 2019.

Accepted for publication February 26, 2019.

Funding: Supported in part by a 2015 Evidence to Innovation Seed Grant from the British Columbia Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

Trial registration: (NCT02353169).

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Data were previously presented, in abstract form, at the 2018 International Anesthesia Research Society Annual Meeting and International Science Symposium, Chicago, IL, April 28–May 1, 2018).

Reprints will not be available from the authors.

Address correspondence to Simon D. Whyte, MBBS, FRCA, FRCPC, Department of Anesthesia, British Columbia Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Rm V3-355, 950 W 28th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4H4, Canada. Address e-mail to

Copyright © 2019 International Anesthesia Research Society
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