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Low-dose remifentanil infusion during ventilator weaning and tracheal extubation in postoperative intensive care unit patients sedated with propofol-remifentanil: a randomised clinical trial

Department of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Anaesthesia and Pain Research Institute, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea


Discontinuation of sedatives for ventilator weaning and extubation can be associated with hyperdynamic responses, including hypertension and tachycardia. We examined the effects of a maintained low dose of remifentanil infusion on cardiovascular responses and coughing during extubation in postoperative intensive care unit patients sedated with propofol-remifentanil.
Fifty patients who required mechanical ventilation after major abdominal surgery were randomised into remifentanil group (n=25) or control group (n=25). Sedation during mechanical ventilation was maintained with remifentanil and propofol via a target-controlled infusion system. These drugs were titrated to the target sedation range, bispectral index values of 60 to 75 and Richmond Agitation Sedation Scale values of -3 to -2. When weaning was initiated, propofol was stopped in both groups. In the control group, remifentanil infusion was also stopped; in the remifentanil group, remifentanil infusion was maintained until extubation at a target effect site concentration of 1.0 ng/ml. Extubation was performed if the patient’s respiratory, haemodynamic states were stable and if the patient was able to follow commands. Heart rate, mean arterial pressure and cough severity were evaluated.
The mean arterial pressure, heart rate and cough severity did not differ between the two groups during extubation. The time from stopping of propofol infusion to extubation was significantly longer in the remifentanil group compared to that in the control group (P=0.020).
Maintaining a low-dose remifentanil infusion during ventilator weaning, delayed tracheal extubation without any differences in haemodynamic changes or coughing in postoperative intensive care unit patients.

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