We aimed to systematically describe the use of dexmedetomidine as a treatment regimen for prolonged sedation in children and perform a meta-analysis of its safety profile.
PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Scopus, Web of Science, ClinicalTrials.gov, and CINAHL were searched from inception to November 30, 2018.
We included studies involving hospitalized critically ill patients less than or equal to 18 years old receiving dexmedetomidine for prolonged infusion (≥ 24 hr).
Data extraction included study characteristics, patient demographics, modality of dexmedetomidine use, associated analgesia and sedation details, comfort and withdrawal evaluation scales, withdrawal symptoms, and side effects.
Literature search identified 32 studies, including a total of 3,267 patients. Most of the studies were monocentric (91%) and retrospective (88%); one was a randomized trial. Minimum and maximum infusion dosages varied from 0.1–0.5 µg/kg/hr to 0.3–2.5 µg/kg/hr, respectively. The mean/median duration range was 25–540 hours. The use of a loading bolus was reported in eight studies (25%) (range, 0.5–1 µg/kg), the mode of weaning in 11 (34%), and the weaning time in six of 11 (55%; range, 9–96 hr). The pooled prevalence of bradycardia was 2.6% (n = 10 studies; 14/387 patients; 95% CI, 0.3–7.3; I2 = 75%), the pooled prevalence incidence of bradycardia was 2.6% (n = 10 studies; 14/387 patients; 95% CI, 0.3–7.3; I2 = 75%), the pooled incidence of hypotension was 6.1% (n = 8 studies; 19/304 patients; 95% CI, 0.8–15.9; I2 = 84%). Three studies (9%) reported side effects’ onset time which in all cases was within 12 hours of the infusion starting.
High-quality data on dexmedetomidine use for prolonged sedation and a consensus on correct dosing and weaning protocols in children are currently missing. Infusion of dexmedetomidine can be considered relatively safe in pediatrics even when longer than 24 hours.