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New Sedation Medication Has Advantages

February 3, 2009

Nearly every patient who receives care in the intensive care unit (ICU) requires sedation. But, as researchers have discovered, not all sedation medications are equal.

Researchers at the University of Vermont found use of the sedative dexmedetomidine for critically ill patients resulted in less time on a ventilator and less delirium compared to patients who were given the more commonly used drug midazolam.

During the study, researchers randomized 375 critically ill ICU patients who were expected to require mechanical ventilation. One group of patients was given dexmedetomidine and the other was given midazolam. All patients were given their respective sedative until their breathing tube was removed or until 30 days had passed.

There was a 23 percent difference in the rate of delirium, 54 percent in dexmedetomidine-treated patients and 76.6 percent in midazolam-treated patients. Also, more dexmedetomidine-treated patients had the study drug stopped because they were able to have their breathing tube removed.

“In addition to the medication administration protocol and incorporation of best sedation practices, the choice of medication used to provide sedation for ICU patients is a fundamental component of efforts to deliver safe and effective care,” study authors were quoted as saying.

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