Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the safety and efficacy of oral cherry-flavored pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal) and oral chloral hydrate to sedate infants undergoing radiologic imaging.
Subjects and methods: We prospectively recorded data for all infants sedated with oral cherry-flavored pentobarbital sodium and oral chloral hydrate for imaging examinations between January 1997 and August 1999. The parameters recorded were each patient's age, weight, and American Society of Anesthesiologists classification; the time required to sedate; the total length of sedation time; the time required to discharge from the recovery room; and adverse events. The two-sample Student's t test and Fisher's exact test were used for statistical analysis.
Results: Oral pentobarbital sodium was administered to 317 infants. These infants had a mean age +/- SD of 6.9 +/- 3.1 months and a mean weight of 7.8 +/- 4.8 kg; they received a median dose of 4 mg/kg of body weight. Oral chloral hydrate was administered to 358 infants. These infants had a mean age of 5.9 +/- 3.3 months and a mean weight of 7.3 +/- 4.9 kg; they received a median dose of 50 mg/kg of body weight. The mean time required to sedate was 19 +/- 14 min for infants receiving oral pentobarbital sodium and 16 +/- 11 min for infants receiving oral chloral hydrate (p = 0.02); the mean time required to discharge was 100 +/- 35 min for infants in the oral pentobarbital sodium group and 103 +/- 36 min for infants in the oral chloral hydrate group (p = 0.31); the mean length of sedation was 81 +/- 34 min for the oral pentobarbital sodium group and 86 +/- 36 min for the oral chloral hydrate group (p = 0.07); and median American Society of Anesthesiologists classification for both groups was P1. Oral pentobarbital sodium was inadequate for sedation in one patient (0.3%) and chloral hydrate was inadequate for sedation in another (0.3%) (p = 1.00). Adverse events were recorded for five patients (1.6%) in the oral pentobarbital sodium group and for six patients (1.7%) in the chloral hydrate group (p = 0.99).
Conclusion: Oral pentobarbital sodium is as safe and efficacious as oral chloral hydrate for sedating infants.