Dexmedetomidine and Propofol Sedation in Critically Ill Patients and Dose-associated 90-Day Mortality: A Secondary Cohort Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial (SPICE III)

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2023 Apr 1;207(7):876-886. doi: 10.1164/rccm.202206-1208OC.


Rationale: The SPICE III (Sedation Practice in Intensive Care Evaluation) trial reported significant heterogeneity in mortality with dexmedetomidine treatment. Supplemental propofol was commonly used to achieve desirable sedation. Objectives: To quantify the association of different infusion rates of dexmedetomidine and propofol, given in combination, with mortality and to determine if this is modified by age. Methods: We included 1,177 patients randomized in SPICE III to receive dexmedetomidine and given supplemental propofol, stratified by age (>65 or ⩽65 yr). We used double stratification analysis to produce quartiles of steady infusion rates of dexmedetomidine while escalating propofol dose and vice versa. We used Cox proportional hazard and multivariable regression adjusted for relevant clinical variable to evaluate the association of sedative dose with 90-day mortality. Measurements and Main Results: Younger patients (598 of 1,177 [50.8%]) received significantly higher doses of both sedatives compared with older patients to achieve comparable sedation depth. On double stratification analysis, escalating infusion rates of propofol to 1.27 mg/kg/h at a steady dexmedetomidine infusion rate (0.54 μg/kg/h) was associated with reduced adjusted mortality in younger but not older patients. This was consistent with multivariable regression modeling (hazard ratio, 0.59; 95% confidence interval, 0.43-0.78; P < 0.0001) adjusted for baseline risk and interaction with dexmedetomidine dose. In contrast, among younger patients, using multivariable regression, escalating dexmedetomidine infusion rate was associated with increased adjusted mortality (hazard ratio, 1.30; 95% confidence interval, 1.03-1.65; P = 0.029). Conclusions: In patients ⩽65 years of age sedated with dexmedetomidine and propofol combination, preferentially increasing the dose of propofol was associated with decreased adjusted 90-day mortality. Conversely, increasing dexmedetomidine may be associated with increased mortality. Clinical trial registered with (NCT01728558).

Keywords: age groups; intensive care; mechanical ventilation; respiratory; sedative effect.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Critical Illness / therapy
  • Dexmedetomidine* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects
  • Propofol* / adverse effects
  • Respiration, Artificial


  • Propofol
  • Dexmedetomidine
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives

Associated data