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Anesth Analg. 2011 May;112(5):1212-7. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e318215366d. Epub 2011 Apr 7.

Review articles: the effects of perioperative and intensive care unit sedation on brain organ dysfunction.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee 37212, USA.


Analgesia and sedation are routinely administered to patients in procedural suites, operating rooms, and intensive care units to permit invasive procedures, prevent pain and anxiety, reduce stress and oxygen consumption, allow mechanical ventilation, and for numerous other patient comfort and safety reasons. Increasing research and evidence, however, has implicated commonly prescribed sedative medications as risk factors for untoward events and worse patient outcomes, including brain organ dysfunction manifested as delirium and coma. The effect of sedatives on outcomes is also influenced by the depth of sedation, making it imperative to reduce total exposure to this class of medications. Juxtaposing the widespread necessity and use of sedation with the cost of acute and long-term cognitive dysfunction to patients and society, physicians must now strive to balance patients' demands and requisite for comfort with their own oath to do no harm. Fortunately, our methods of sedation and choice of medications can likely mitigate this cognitive risk. In this review, we detail the effects of perioperative and intensive care unit sedation on the development of delirium and cognitive impairment and provide an evidence-based approach towards analgesia and sedation paradigms to improve patient outcomes.

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