Dexmedetomidine Controls Agitation and Facilitates Reliable, Serial Neurological Examinations in a Non-Intubated Patient with Traumatic Brain Injury

Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco General Hospital, 1001 Potrero Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.
Neurocritical Care (Impact Factor: 2.44). 03/2010; 15(1):175-81. DOI: 10.1007/s12028-009-9315-8
Source: PubMed


We report the effective use of dexmedetomidine in the treatment of a patient with a history of chronic alcohol abuse and an acute traumatic brain injury who developed agitation that was unresolved if from traumatic brain injury, or alcohol withdrawal or the combination of both. Treatment with benzodiazepines failed; lorazepam therapy obscured our ability to do reliable neurological testing to follow his brain injury and nearly resulted in intubation of the patient secondary to respiratory suppression. Upon admission to hospital, the patient was first treated with intermittent, prophylactic doses of lorazepam for potential alcohol withdrawal based upon our institution’s standard of care. His neurological examinations including a motor score of 6 (obeying commands) on his Glasgow Coma Scale testing, laboratory studies, and repeat CT head imaging remained stable. For lack of published literature in diagnosing symptoms of patients with a history of both alcohol withdrawal and traumatic brain injury, a diagnosis of agitation secondary to presumed alcohol withdrawal was made when the patient developed acute onset of tachycardia, confusion, and extreme anxiety with tremor and attempts to climb out of bed requiring him to be restrained. Additional lorazepam doses were administered following a hospital-approved protocol for titration of benzodiazepine therapy for alcohol withdrawal. The patient’s mental status and respiratory function deteriorated with the frequent lorazepam dosing needed to control his agitation. Dexmedetomidine IV infusion at a rate of 0.5 mcg/kg/h was then administered and was titrated ultimately to 1.5 mcg/kg/h. After 8 days of therapy with dexmedetomidine, the patient was transferred from the ICU to a step-down unit with an intact neurological examination and no evidence of alcohol withdrawal. Airway intubation was avoided during the patient’s entire hospitalization. This case report highlights the intricate balance between the side effects of benzodiazepine sedation for treatment of agitation and the difficulties of monitoring the neurological status of non-intubated patients with traumatic brain injury
Given the large numbers of alcohol-dependent patients who suffer a traumatic brain injury and subsequently develop agitation and alcohol withdrawal in hospital, dexmedetomidine offers a novel strategy to facilitate sedation without neurological or respiratory depression. As this case report demonstrates, dexmedetomidine is an emerging treatment option for agitation in patients who require reliable, serial neurological testing to monitor the course of their traumatic brain injury.

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    • "This drug is also a useful adjunct for awake intubation. This drug can be used for the agitated patients (alcoholics, substance abuse) who require reliable, serial neurological testing to monitor the course of their TBI without producing respiratory depression and obviate the need for further intubation.[39] "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a growing epidemic throughout the world and may present as major global burden in 2020. Some intensive care units throughout the world still have no access to specialized monitoring methods, equipments and other technologies related to intensive care management of these patients; therefore, this review is meant for providing generalized supportive measurement to this subgroup of patients so that evidence based management could minimize or prevent the secondary brain injury. Methods: Therefore, we have included the PubMed search for the relevant clinical trials and reviews (from 1 January 2007 to 31 March 2013), which specifically discussed about the topic. Results: General supportive measures are equally important to prevent and minimize the effects of secondary brain injury and therefore, have a substantial impact on the outcome in patients with TBI. The important considerations for general supportive intensive care unit care remain the prompt reorganization and treatment of hypoxemia, hypotension and hypercarbia. Evidences are found to be either against or weak regarding the use of routine hyperventilation therapy, tight control blood sugar regime, use of colloids and late as well as parenteral nutrition therapy in patients with severe TBI. Conclusion: There is also a need to develop some evidence based protocols for the health-care sectors, in which there is still lack of specific management related to monitoring methods, equipments and other technical resources. Optimization of physiological parameters, understanding of basic neurocritical care knowledge as well as incorporation of newer guidelines would certainly improve the outcome of the TBI patients.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2014
    • "This is mainly attributed to their blocking of α−2A receptors situated in the locus ceruleus.[8182] It has been found to be helpful controlling the agitation in alcoholics after traumatic brain injury and thus helps in monitoring and allows serial neurotesting in these patients.[83] "
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    ABSTRACT: The introduction of newer more selective α(-2) adrenergic agonist, dexmedetomidine has made a revolution in the field of anesthesia owing to its varied application. The aim of the current review is to highlight the various clinical and pharmacological aspects of dexmedetomidine in daily routine practice of anesthesiology and intensive care besides its potential role in other clinical specialties. This review of dexmedetomidine was carried out after searching the medical literature in Pubmed, Science direct, Scopus, Google scholar and various text books and journal articles using keywords anesthesia, dexmedetomidine, neurosurgery, pediatric surgery, regional dexmedetomidine, anesthesia, regional, neurosurgery, and pediatric surgery. Dexmedetomidine has made its application from a novel sedating agent in the intensive care unit to its use as an adjuvant in various regional anesthetic techniques because of its "cooperative sedation" without any respiratory depression. It has a favorable pharmacokinetic profile suitable to be used in the perioperative period to reduce the requirements of opioids and anesthetic drugs. There are few side-effects of dexmedetomidine, which should always be kept in mind before choosing the patients for its use. The various side-effects associated with dexmedetomidine include, but are not limited to hypotension, bradycardia, worsening of heart block, dry mouth, and nausea. However, large scale randomized controlled trials are still needed to establish various effects of dexmedetomidine and to clearly define its safety profile.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2013
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    • "While the majority of the literature with alpha 2 agonists in alcohol withdrawal involves the use of clonidine, the use of dexmedetomidine as an adjunctive has been described in the literature [134] [138] [139] [140] [141] [142] [143]. When used adjunctively, alpha 2 agonists have demonstrated a reduction in the consumption of benzodiazepines in patients experiencing withdrawal [135] [136] [137]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Management of pain, agitation, and delirium is a complex process requiring a multimodal approach to optimize patient outcomes. Dexmedetomidine is a centrally acting alpha-2 agonist with sedative and analgesic properties that has demonstrated efficacy in managing pain, agitation, and delirium in a variety of critically ill patient populations. Dexmedetomidine has demonstrated the ability to provide a mild to moderate level of sedation in diverse ICU populations compared to conventional sedative regimens. Recent literature has demonstrated improved outcomes with dexmedetomidine based vs. benzodiazepine based sedation therapy in select mechanically ventilated ICU patients. However, dexmedetomidine therapy has also been associated with adverse cardiovascular events including hypotension, bradycardia, and asystole. The clinical pharmacology, therapeutic efficacy, safety considerations, controversies, and future directions of dexmedetomidine therapy in the ICU setting will be discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2012 · Current pharmaceutical design
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