Study protocol to test the efficacy of self-administration of dexmedetomidine sedative therapy on anxiety, delirium, and ventilator days in critically ill mechanically ventilated patients: an open-label randomized clinical trial

Trials. 2022 May 16;23(1):406. doi: 10.1186/s13063-022-06391-w.


Background: Administration of sedative and opioid medications to patients receiving mechanical ventilatory support in the intensive care unit is a common clinical practice.

Methods: A two-site randomized open-label clinical trial will test the efficacy of self-management of sedative therapy with dexmedetomidine compared to usual care on anxiety, delirium, and duration of ventilatory support after randomization. Secondary objectives are to compare self-management of sedative therapy to usual care on level of alertness, total aggregate sedative and opioid medication exposure, and ventilator-free days up to day 28 after study enrolment. Exploratory objectives of the study are to compare self-management of sedative therapy to usual care on 3- and 6-month post-discharge physical and functional status, psychological well-being (depression, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder), health-related quality of life, and recollections of ICU care. ICU patients (n = 190) who are alert enough to follow commands to self-manage sedative therapy are randomly assigned to self-management of sedative therapy or usual care. Patients remain in the ICU sedative medication study phase for up to 7 days as long as mechanically ventilated.

Discussion: The care of critically ill mechanically ventilated patients can change significantly over the course of a 5-year clinical trial. Changes in sedation and pain interventions, oxygenation approaches, and standards related to extubation have substantially impacted consistency in the number of eligible patients over time. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in mandated extended pauses in trial enrolment as well as alterations in recruitment methods out of concern for study personnel safety and availability of protective equipment. Patient triaging among healthcare institutions due to COVID-19 cases also has resulted in inconsistent access to the eligible study population. This has made it even more imperative for the study team to be flexible and innovative to identify and enrol all eligible participants. Patient-controlled sedation is a novel approach to the management of patient symptoms that may be able to alleviate mechanical ventilation-induced distress without serious side effects. Findings from this study will provide insight into the efficacy of this approach on short- and long-term outcomes in a subset of mechanically ventilated patients.

Trial registration: NCT02819141. Registered on June 29, 2016.

Keywords: Anxiety; Clinical trial; Intensive care; Mechanical ventilation; Sedation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • COVID-19*
  • Critical Illness
  • Delirium* / diagnosis
  • Delirium* / drug therapy
  • Delirium* / etiology
  • Dexmedetomidine* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Pandemics
  • Patient Discharge
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods
  • Ventilators, Mechanical


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Dexmedetomidine

Associated data