Original Article

Propofol Versus Dexmedetomidine for Procedural Sedation in a Pediatric Population

Authors: Nicole M. Schacherer, MD, Tamara Armstrong, MD, Amy M. Perkins, MS, Michael P. Poirier, MD, James M. Schmidt, MD


Objectives: Frequently, infants and children require sedation to facilitate noninvasive procedures and imaging studies. Propofol and dexmedetomidine are used to achieve deep procedural sedation in children. The objective of this study was to compare the clinical safety and efficacy of propofol versus dexmedetomidine in pediatric patients undergoing sedation in a pediatric sedation unit.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of patients sedated with either propofol or dexmedetomidine in a pediatric sedation unit by pediatric emergency physicians was performed. Both medications were dosed per protocol with propofol 2 mg/kg induction and 150 μg · kg−1 · min−1 maintenance and dexmedetomidine 3 μg/kg induction for 10 minutes and 2 μg · kg−1 · h−1 maintenance. The variables collected included drug dose, sedation time (time that the drug was given to the completion of the procedure), recovery time (end of the study to the return to the presedation sedation score for 15 minutes), need for dose rate changes, airway management, and adverse events.

Results: A total of 2432 children were included— 1503 who received propofol and 929 who received dexmedetomidine. Propofol and dexmedetomidine resulted in successful completion of the study in 98.8% and 99.7%, respectively (P = 0.02). The mean recovery time for propofol was 34.3 minutes, compared with 65.6 minutes for dexmedetomidine (P < 0.001). The need for unexpected airway management was 9.7% for propofol and 2.2% for dexmedetomidine (P < 0.001). Adverse events occurred in 8.6% and 6% of patients in the propofol and dexmedetomidine groups, respectively (P = 0.02).

Conclusions: Propofol use led to significantly shorter recovery times, with an increased need for airway management, but rates of bag-mask ventilation (2.3%), airway obstruction (1.1%), and desaturation (1.6%) were low. No patients required intubation. Propofol is a reasonable alternative to dexmedetomidine, with a clinically acceptable safety profile.

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