Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 39, Issue 9, pp 1524–1534 | Cite as

Optimal sedation in pediatric intensive care patients: a systematic review

  • Nienke J. Vet
  • Erwin Ista
  • Saskia N. de Wildt
  • Monique van Dijk
  • Dick Tibboel
  • Matthijs de Hoog
Systematic Review



Sedatives administered to critically ill children should be titrated to effect, because both under- and oversedation may have negative effects. We conducted a systematic review to examine reported incidences of under-, optimal, and oversedation in critically ill children receiving intensive care.


A systematic literature search using predefined criteria was performed in PubMed and Embase to identify all articles evaluating level of sedation in PICU patients receiving continuous sedation. Two authors independently recorded: study objective, study design, sample size, age range, details of study intervention (if applicable), sedatives used, length of sedation, sedation scale used, and incidences of optimal, under-, and oversedation as defined in the studies.


Twenty-five studies were included. Two studies evaluated sedation level as primary study outcome; the other 23 as secondary outcomes. Together, these studies investigated 1,163 children; age range, 0–18 years. Across studies, children received many different sedative agents and sedation level was assessed with 12 different sedation scales. Optimal sedation was ascertained in 57.6 % of the observations, under sedation in 10.6 %, and oversedation in 31.8 %.


This study suggests that sedation in the PICU is often suboptimal and seldom systematically evaluated. Oversedation is more common than undersedation. As oversedation may lead to longer hospitalization, tolerance, and withdrawal, preventing oversedation in pediatric intensive care deserves greater attention.


Pediatrics Intensive care Sedation Clinical pharmacology 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg and ESICM 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nienke J. Vet
    • 1
    • 2
  • Erwin Ista
    • 1
    • 2
  • Saskia N. de Wildt
    • 1
    • 3
  • Monique van Dijk
    • 1
    • 3
  • Dick Tibboel
    • 1
    • 3
  • Matthijs de Hoog
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Intensive CareErasmus MC, Sophia Children’s HospitalRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of PediatricsErasmus MC, Sophia Children’s HospitalRotterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Pediatric SurgeryErasmus MC, Sophia Children’s HospitalRotterdamThe Netherlands

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