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Can dexmedetomidine be a safe and efficacious sedative agent in post-cardiac surgery patients? a meta-analysis

Yi Yun Lin1, Bin He2, Jian Chen1 and Zhi Nong Wang1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Changzheng Hospital, the Second Military Medical University, Fengyang road 415#, Shanghai, 200003, China

2 Department of Anesthesiology and SICU, Xinhua Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, Kongjiang road 1665#, Shanghai, 200092, China

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Critical Care 2012, 16:R169  doi:10.1186/cc11646

Published: 27 September 2012



The aim of this study was to explore the use of dexmedetomidine as a safe and efficacious sedative agent in post-cardiac surgery patients.


A systematic literature search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library and Science Citation Index until January 2012 and review of studies was conducted. Eligible studies were of randomized controlled trials or cohort studies, comparing dexmedetomidine with a placebo or an alternative sedative agent in elective cardiac surgery, using dexmedetomidine for postoperative sedation and available in full text. Two reviewers independently performed study selection, quality assessment, and data extraction.


The search identified 530 potentially relevant publications; 11 met selection criteria in this meta-analysis. Our results revealed that dexmedetomidine was associated with a shorter length of mechanical ventilation (mean difference -2.70 [-5.05, -0.35]), a lower risk of delirium (risk ratio 0.36 [0.21, 0.64]), ventricular tachycardia (risk ratio 0.27 [0.08, 0.97]) and hyperglycemia (risk ratio 0.78 [0.61, 0.99]), but may increase the risk of bradycardia (risk ratio 2.08 [1.16, 3.74]). But there was no significant difference in ICU stay, hospital stay, and morphine equivalents between the included studies. Dexmedetomidine may not increase the risk of hypotension, atrial fibrillation, postoperative nausea and vomiting, reintubation within 5 days, cardiovascular complications, postoperative infection or hospital mortality.


Dexmedetomidine was associated with shorter length of mechanical ventilation and lower risk of delirium following cardiac surgery. Although the risk of bradycardia was significantly higher compared with traditional sedatives, it may not increase length of hospital stay and hospital mortality. Moreover, dexmedetomidine may decrease the risk of ventricular tachycardia and hyperglycemia. Thus, dexmedetomidine could be a safe and efficacious sedative agent in cardiac surgical patients.

Bradycardia; Hypotension; Delirium; Mechanical ventilation; Intensive care unit; Sedation