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Risk Factors for Dexmedetomidine-Associated Hemodynamic Instability in Noncardiac Intensive Care Unit Patients

Ice, Calvin J. PharmD*; Personett, Heather A. PharmD; Frazee, Erin N. PharmD; Dierkhising, Ross A. MS; Kashyap, Rahul MBBS§; Oeckler, Richard A. MD, PhD§‖

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000001125
Critical Care, Trauma, and Resuscitation: Research Report

BACKGROUND: The reported incidence of hypotension and bradycardia in patients receiving dexmedetomidine for sedation commonly exceeds 50%. In this study, we describe the incidence of, patient- and treatment-specific risk factors for, and clinical significance of dexmedetomidine-associated hemodynamic instability.

METHODS: This retrospective cohort study was conducted in critically ill adults receiving dexmedetomidine for sedation at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, MN, during a 1-year period. The primary end point was hemodynamic instability: a composite of hypotension and/or bradycardia, defined as systolic blood pressure <80 mm Hg, diastolic blood pressure <50 mm Hg, or heart rate <50 beats per minute during dexmedetomidine therapy. Cox proportional hazards models were constructed to determine hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the risk factors of hemodynamic instability.

RESULTS: Hemodynamic instability occurred in 197 of the analyzed 300 patients receiving dexmedetomidine, resulting in a cumulative incidence of 71% at 24 hours via Kaplan-Meier estimation. In addition to dexmedetomidine, univariate analysis identified age, vasopressor use, low baseline arterial blood pressure, and concomitant sedatives as associated with increased risk of hemodynamic instability. Multivariable analysis demonstrated associations between age (HR, 1.23 per 10 years, 95% CI, 1.10–1.38) and low baseline blood pressure (HR, 2.42 at dexmedetomidine initiation, 95% CI, 1.68–3.49) and risk of hemodynamic instability. Variables such as concomitantly administered cardiac medications or sedative therapies and dexmedetomidine infusion rates >0.7 μg/kg/h were not found to be predictors of hemodynamic instability among the analyzed sample.

CONCLUSIONS: Hemodynamic instability commonly occurs in critically ill adults receiving dexmedetomidine, with more than two thirds of this cohort experiencing hypotension and/or bradycardia within 24 hours of initiation. Increasing age and low baseline arterial blood pressure were associated with the development of hemodynamic instability. These findings suggest that clinicians should be aware of the potential risk of hemodynamic instability when using dexmedetomidine in patients with advanced age or low baseline arterial blood pressure.

From the *Department of Pharmacy, Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Department of Pharmacy Services, Division of Biomedical Statistics and Informatics, §Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, and Department of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering, Mayo Clinic Hospital, Rochester, Minnesota.

Accepted for publication November 3, 2015.

Funding: This study was partially funded by a research grant from Mayo Clinic Pharmacy Services Discretionary Fund.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints will not be available from the authors.

Address correspondence to Calvin J. Ice, PharmD, Spectrum Health, Department of Pharmacy, MC-001, 100 Michigan St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Address e-mail to

© 2016 International Anesthesia Research Society