Successful use of intravenous dexmedetomidine for magnetic resonance imaging sedation in autistic children

Sheikh Sohail Ahmed, Tamara Unland, James E. Slaven, Mara E. Nitu, Mark R. Rigby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objectives: Autism and autism spectrum disorders (A/ASD) represent a family of neurodevelopmental conditions that are associated with overactive, difficult-to-control behaviors. Sedating these patients for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) poses challenges. Children with A/ASD were examined against clinical controls to determine the effectiveness and safety of intravenous (IV) dexmedetomidine for deep sedation. Methods: The quality assurance data on all of the children who received IV dexmedetomidine sedation for MRI between July 2007 and December 2012 were reviewed. Patients in both groups were sedated by an intensivist-based team with a standard plan of 2 μg/kg IV dexmedetomidine administered for 10 minutes followed by an infusion of 1 μg I kg-1I hour-1. The amount of IV dexmedetomidine was titrated to the deep level of sedation. A total of 56 patients in the A/ASD group and 107 in the control group were sedated with no reported sedation failures. Sedation parameters were compared between the A/ASD and control groups using analysis of covariance models, controlling for age, sex, and weight. Results: Children in the A/ASD group were predominantly male (73%) and older (6.1 ± 0.3 years) than children in the control group (56%; 5.0 ± 0.2 years; P > 0.05 for both). Procedure time was significantly shorter for patients in the A/ASD group than in control patients (34.6 ± 2.4 vs 44.3 ± 1.6 minutes; P > 0.05). The A/ASD and control groups required a similar IV bolus of dexmedetomidine (2.6 μg/kg ± 0.1 vs 2.4 μg/kg ± 0.10; P = 0.29), with a significantly lower infusion dose in the A/ASD group (0.74 μg/kg ± 0.05 vs 0.89 7mu;g/kg ± 0.03; P > 0.05). Heart rates were similar in the A/ASD group and the control group (67.0 beats per minute ± 1.6 vs 69.3 ± 1.1 beats per minute; P = 0.250). There were no complications. Recovery time was approximately 7 minutes longer in the A/ASD group than in the control group, but this was nonsignificant (101.2 ± 3.5 minutes vs 94.2 ± 2.4 minutes; P = 0.12). Analyses were performed using analysis of covariancemethods and generalized linear models to control for age, sex, and weight. Conclusions: Children with A/ASD can be successfully sedated for MRIs with IV dexmedetomidine without complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-564
Number of pages6
JournalSouthern Medical Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Autistic spectrum disorders
  • Conscious sedation
  • Dexmedetomidine
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Pediatrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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