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Dexmedetomidine-associated hyperthermia: a retrospective cohort study of intensive care unit admissions between 2009 and 2016

Department of Critical Care, St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria


Dexmedetomidine-associated hyperthermia has not been previously studied. Analysis is warranted to determine whether this potentially dangerous complication is more prevalent than previously realised. We aimed to examine the association between dexmedetomidine and temperature ≥39.5°C, including patient characteristics, temporality and potential risk factors. We conducted a retrospective cohort study of all intensive care unit (ICU) admissions between 1 July 2009 and 31 May 2016 in a tertiary ICU in Australia. Temperature data was available for 9,782 ICU admissions. Dexmedetomidine was given intravenously to 611 (6.3%) patients at a dose of 0 to 1.5 g/kg/hour. Temperatures ≥39.5°C were recorded in 341 (3.5%) patients. Overall hospital mortality was 10.8% for all admissions and 29.3% for patients with temperatures ≥39.5°C. Dexmedetomidine exposure was more frequent in patients with temperature recordings ≥39.5°C compared to those with temperatures <39.5°C, 11.94% versus 2.94% (odds ratio [OR] 4.49; 95% confidence intervals [CI] 3.37, 5.92; P <0.001). The association was stronger for patients post-open heart surgery (OHS) with temperatures ≥39.5°C (OR 12.9; 95% CI 5.01, 31.62; P <0.001). Multivariate analysis showed an independent association between dexmedetomidine and a temperature ≥39.5°C in two particular patient groups: OHS (OR 2.72; 95% CI 1.1, 6.9; P <0.001), and obesity (OR 3.44; 95% CI 1.5, 7.9; P <0.001). Dexmedetomidine exposure is associated with an increased risk of hyperthermia. Possible risk factors are open heart surgery and obesity.

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