Dexmedetomidine infusion for analgesia and prevention of emergence agitation

Anesth Analg. 2010 Oct;111(4):1004-10. Epub 2010 Aug 12.

Dexmedetomidine infusion for analgesia and prevention of emergence agitation in children with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome undergoing tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.


Associate Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, New Jersey Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Medical Science, Newark, NJ 07101, USA.



Dexmedetomidine, a specific α(2) agonist, has an analgesic-sparing effect and reduces emergence agitation. We compared an intraoperative dexmedetomidine infusion with bolus fentanyl to reduce perioperative opioid use and decrease emergence agitation in children with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome undergoing adenotonsillectomy (T&A).


One hundred twenty-two patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome undergoing T&A, ages 2 to 10 years, completed this prospective, randomized, U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved study. After mask induction with sevoflurane, group D received IV dexmedetomidine 2 μg · kg(-1) over 10 minutes, followed by 0.7 μg · kg(-1) · h(-1), and group F received IV fentanyl bolus 1 μg · kg(-1). Anesthesia was maintained with sevoflurane, oxygen, and nitrous oxide. Fentanyl 0.5 to 1 μg · kg(-1) was given to subjects in both groups for an increase in heart rate or systolic blood pressure 30% above preincision values that continued for 5 minutes. Observers in the postanesthesia care unit (PACU) were blinded to treatment groups. Pain was evaluated using the objective pain score in the PACU on arrival, at 5 minutes, at 15 minutes, then every 15 minutes for 120 minutes. Emergence agitation was evaluated at the same intervals by 2 scales: the Pediatric Anesthesia Emergence Delirium scale and a 5-point scale described by Cole. Morphine (0.05 to 0.1 mg · kg(-1)) was given for pain (score >4) or severe agitation (score 4 or 5) lasting more than 5 minutes.


In group D, 9.8% patients needed intraoperative rescue fentanyl in comparison with 36% in group F (P = 0.001). Mean systolic blood pressure and heart rate were significantly lower in group D (P < 0.05). Minimum alveolar concentration values were significantly different between the 2 groups (P = 0.015). The median objective pain score was 3 for group D and 5 for group F (P = 0.001). In group D, 10 (16.3%) patients required rescue morphine, in comparison with 29 (47.5%) in group F (P = 0.002). The frequency of severe emergence agitation on arrival in the PACU was 18% in group D and 45.9% in group F (P = 0.004); at 5 minutes and at 15 minutes, it was lower in group D (P = 0.028). The duration of agitation on the Cole scale was statistically lower in group D (P = 0.004). In group D, 18% of patients and 40.9% in group F had an episode of Spo(2) below 95% (P = 0.01).


An intraoperative infusion of dexmedetomidine

combined with inhalation anesthetics

provided satisfactory intraoperative conditions for T&A without adverse hemodynamic effects.

Postoperative opioid requirements were significantly reduced, and the

incidence and duration of severe emergence agitation was lower with

fewer patients having desaturation episodes.


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