Is intraoperative dexmedetomidine a new option for postoperative pain treatment? A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Pain. 2013 Jul;154(7):1140-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2013.03.029. Epub 2013 Mar 27.


In the present meta-analysis, we assessed the efficacy and safety of intravenous administration of dexmedetomidine (DEX) compared with placebo or opioids for acute postoperative pain treatment in adults undergoing surgery. The meta-analysis was performed according to the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) statement and the recommendations of the Cochrane Collaboration. Randomized controlled trials investigating perioperative administration of DEX were included. For dichotomous outcomes relative risks (RR; 95% confidence intervals [CI]) and for continuous outcomes mean differences (MD; 95% CI) were calculated. Twenty-eight randomized controlled trials including 1420 patients were finally included. Patients treated with DEX reported lower postoperative pain intensity (MD1h postoperatively: -1.59U (numeric rating scale: 0 to 10) 95% CI: -2.37 to -0.82; P=.000001) and showed a lower postoperative opioid consumption (MD24h postoperatively: -17.24mg; 95% CI: -24.38 to -10.10; P=.00001) compared with placebo. Additionally, the DEX group showed a lower RR for opioid-related adverse events (e.g. RRNausea (postanesthesia care unit): 0.66; 95% CI: 0.43 to 1.02; P=.06). The most common adverse event in patients treated with DEX was intraoperative bradycardia with a RR of 2.66 (RR: 2.66; 95% CI: 1.54 to 4.58; P=.0004) compared with placebo. There is evidence that DEX administration leads to lower postoperative pain, reduced opioid consumption, and a lower risk for opioid-related adverse events. The comparison of DEX vs opioids for postoperative pain treatment is less clear due to limited data. The most common adverse event was intraoperative bradycardia after DEX administration. Therefore cautions in patients at risk are warranted, and large trials focusing on long-term outcomes after intraoperative DEX use are needed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / administration & dosage
  • Dexmedetomidine / administration & dosage*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / epidemiology*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / prevention & control
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Operative Blood Salvage
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy
  • Pain, Postoperative / epidemiology*
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control*
  • Premedication / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Dexmedetomidine