Background: The pharmacokinetics of the alpha-2 adrenoceptor agonist dexmedetomidine were studied in 10 patients requiring postoperative sedation and mechanical ventilation in the intensive care unit (ICU), and compared with previous volunteer data.
Methods: On arrival in the ICU, sedation with dexmedetomidine was commenced with a loading dose of 2.5 microg kg(-1) h(-1) over 10 min followed by a maintenance infusion of 0.7 microg kg(-1) h(-1) into a central vein. Blood samples for measurement of plasma dexmedetomidine concentrations were taken during and after sedative infusions at predetermined intervals. Pharmacokinetic variables were estimated using non-compartmental methods. In addition, non-linear mixed effects modelling was used to obtain variable estimates not readily attainable from non-compartmental methods. Respiratory and haemodynamic data were recorded to enable correlation of any adverse events with the calculated pharmacokinetic profile.
Results: The harmonic mean distribution half-life of dexmedetomidine was 8.6 min and the harmonic mean terminal half-life was 3.14 h. Steady-state volume of distribution averaged 173 litres, clearance averaged 48.3 litres h(-1), and the mean residence time averaged 3.86 h.
Conclusions: Mean dexmedetomidine pharmacokinetic variables seen in postoperative, intensive care patients were similar to those previously found in volunteers, with the exception of the steady-state volume of distribution. A small loading dose provided effective sedation with no adverse events.