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Use of dexmedetomidine in pediatric cardiac anesthesia

Kiski, Danielaa; Malec, Edwardb; Schmidt, Christophc

Current Opinion in Anesthesiology: June 2019 - Volume 32 - Issue 3 - p 334–342
doi: 10.1097/ACO.0000000000000731

Purpose of review In recent years, ultrafast-track anesthesia with on-table extubation and concepts of accelerated postoperative care have gained increasing support in pediatric congenital cardiac surgery. It is believed that such approaches might ideally combine economic benefits with a striving for continuous improvement of patient outcomes. The present review summarizes the role of dexmedetomidine (DEX) in this setting.

Recent findings DEX is a clinical multipurpose drug that mediates its diverse responses through the activation of α2-adrenoreceptors. In pediatric cardiac surgery it has various applications. Used as a premedication, DEX provides arousable sedation and anxiolysis. As an intraoperative adjunctive agent of balanced general anesthesia the primary objectives for its administration are attenuation of the neuro-humoral stress response and facilitation of early extubation. During ICU treatment DEX spares opioids, prevents the risk of postoperative delirium or emergence agitation and impacts on important patient-centered outcomes, such as duration of mechanical ventilation, restart of enteral nutrition or length of ICU stay.

Summary Due to a favorable mix of beneficial physiologic actions and a limited adverse effect profile, DEX is established in the perioperative pediatric cardiac surgery setting. However, evidence from high-quality randomized controlled trials on the effects of supplemental DEX on meaningful patient outcomes is scarce, and research on the role of DEX in providing cardioprotection, neuroprotection, or renoprotection is still at its beginning. DEX has developed to one of the main agents in the armamentarium of cardiac anesthesiologists and pediatric intensivists, but it should not be regarded as the new ‘magic bullet’.

aDepartment of Pediatric Cardiology

bDepartment of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery

cDepartment of Anesthesiology, Critical Care Medicine and Pain Therapy, University Hospital Münster, Münster, Germany

Correspondence to Christoph Schmidt, Prof Dr Med, Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care Medicine and Pain Therapy, University Hospital Münster, Albert-Schweitzer-Campus 1, Building A1, 48149 Münster, Germany. Tel: +49 251 83 4 72 52; fax: +49 251 83 4 86 67; e-mail:

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