Dexmedetomidine-induced sedation in volunteers decreases regional and global cerebral blood flow

Anesth Analg. 2002 Oct;95(4):1052-9, table of contents. doi: 10.1097/00000539-200210000-00048.


Dexmedetomidine is a selective alpha(2)-agonist approved for sedation of critically ill patients. There is little information on the effects of dexmedetomidine on cerebral blood flow (CBF) or intracranial hemodynamics, despite considerable other pharmacodynamic data. We hypothesized that therapeutic doses of dexmedetomidine would decrease CBF. Therefore, nine supine volunteers, aged 24-48 yr, were infused with a 1 micro g/kg IV loading dose of dexmedetomidine, followed by an infusion of 0.2 micro g. kg(-1). h(-1) (LOW DEX) and 0.6 micro g. kg(-1). h(-1) (HIGH DEX). Hemodynamic and CBF (via positron emission tomography) measurements were determined at each experimental time point. Dexmedetomidine decreased both cardiac output and heart rate during and 30 min after drug administration. Blood pressure decreased from 12% to 16% during and after the dexmedetomidine administration. Global CBF was decreased significantly from baseline (91 mL. 100 g(-1). min(-1) [95% confidence interval, 72-114] to 64 mL. 100 g(-1). min(-1) [51-81] LOW DEX and 61 mL. 100 g(-1). min(-1) [48-76] HIGH DEX). This decrease in CBF remained constant for at least 30 min after the dexmedetomidine infusion was discontinued, despite the plasma dexmedetomidine concentration decreasing 40% during this same time period (628 pg/mL [524-732] to 380 pg/mL [253-507]).

Implications: Dexmedetomidine-induced sedation decreased cerebral blood flow (CBF) by congruent with 33%, which could be due to direct alpha(2)-receptor cerebral smooth muscle vasoconstriction or to compensatory CBF changes caused by dexmedetomidine-induced decreases in the cerebral metabolic rate.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Cardiac Output / drug effects
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects*
  • Conscious Sedation*
  • Dexmedetomidine / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Dexmedetomidine
  • Oxygen