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Clin Pharmacokinet. 1996 Dec;31(6):423-43.

Clinical pharmacokinetics of sedatives in neonates.

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Unité de Pharmacologie Clinique, Hôpital Robert Debré, Paris, France.


Sedation is currently administered to neonates experiencing pain and stress during intensive care for medical diseases, as well as postoperatively. Drugs commonly used for sedation in neonates include benzodiazepines (midazolam and lorazepam), chloral hydrate and opioids (fentanyl and morphine). Sedation protocols and dosage schedules are, in most cases, adapted from those which have been developed in children and even adults. The effectiveness and safety of the sedative agents remain underevaluated, however, due to the difficulties of quantifying pain and stress in neonates, and because of the limited use of validated scoring methods by practitioners. Among the benzodiazepines, midazolam is probably the drug of choice for continuous sedation. However, its elimination is delayed in the neonatal period and hypotension may occur when given as a bolus injection or when taken with opioids. Lorazepam requires further evaluation to exclude severe neurotoxicity. Chloral hydrate is administered orally, but because of its delayed elimination and risk of accumulation, a single administration for short term sedation is recommended. Among opioids, fentanyl (which was initially administered for postoperative analgesia) is now prescribed for sedation during mechanical ventilation. Tolerance and dependence may develop rapidly, limiting its usefulness for prolonged sedation. Although extensively studied in neonates, the efficacy and safety of morphine are not clearly determined, because of the limited number of patients included in individual studies. In addition, important interindividual differences in metabolism render dosage recommendations difficult. Alfentanil and sufentanil need further investigations to define their pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic properties in neonates. Although the choice of drug is important, the way the drug is used and monitored is equally important. All the drugs used for the sedation of neonates have large inter- and intraindividual differences in disposition, justifying specific pharmacological knowledge and individual dosage adjustments based on clinical evaluation of the patient and the monitoring of drug concentrations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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