PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The development of dexmedetomidine, a potent and highly selective alpha2-adrenoceptor agonist, has created new interest in the use of alpha2-adrenoceptor agonists, and has led to its evaluation in various yet non-approved perioperative settings. The current review focuses on the usefulness of dexmedetomidine in anaesthesia practice. RECENT FINDINGS: Recently acquired knowledge and experience with dexmedetomidine in perioperative use will be presented and discussed in the context of known pharmacological properties. SUMMARY: Dexmedetomidine offers beneficial pharmacological properties, providing dose-dependent sedation, analgesia, sympatholysis and anxiolysis without relevant respiratory depression. The side-effects are predictable from the pharmacological profile of (2-adrenoceptor agonists. In particular, the unique sedative properties of dexmedetomidine resulted in several interesting applications in anaesthesia practice, promising benefits in the perioperative use of this compound. However, dexmedetomidine was approved for sedation in the intensive care unit in the USA in 1999, and administration in anaesthesia practice remains an 'off-label' use. Further studies are needed to establish the role of dexmedetomidine in the perioperative period.
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