Recent experimental studies suggest that currently used anesthetics have neurotoxic effects on young animals. Clinical studies are increasingly published about the effects of anesthesia on the long term outcome, providing contradictory results. The selective alpha-2 adrenergic receptor agonist dexmedetomidine has been suggested as an alternative non-toxic sedative agent.


The aim of this systematic review is to assess the potential neuroprotective and neurobehavioral effects of dexmedetomidine in young animals and children.


Systematic searches separately for preclinical and clinical studies were performed in Medline Ovid and Embase on February 14th 2018.


The initial search found preclinical (n=661) and clinical (n=240) studies. A total of 20 preclinical studies were included. None of the clinical studies met the predefined eligibility criteria. Histologic injury by dexmedetomidine was evaluated in 11 studies, and was confirmed in three of these studies (caspase-3 activation or apoptosis). Decrease of injury caused by another anesthetic was evaluated in 16 studies and confirmed in 13 of these. Neurobehavioral tests were performed in 7 out of the 20 studies. Of these 7 rodent studies, 3 studies tested the effects of dexmedetomidine alone on neurobehavioral outcome in animals (younger than P21). All 3 studies found no negative effect of dexmedetomidine on the outcome. In 6 studies outcome was evaluated when dexmedetomidine was administered following another anesthetic. Dexmedetomidine was found to lessen the negative effects of the anesthetic.


In animals, dexmedetomidine was found not to induce histologic injury and to show a beneficial effect when administered with another anesthetic. No clinical results on the long term effects in children have been identified yet. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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