Pediatric Radiology

, Volume 35, Issue 9, pp 867–871 | Cite as

Moderate sedation for MRI in young children with autism

  • Allison Kinder Ross
  • Heather Cody Hazlett
  • Nancy T. Garrett
  • Christy Wilkerson
  • Joseph Piven
Original Article


Autism is a pervasive neurodevelopmental disorder. Because of the deficits associated with the condition, sedation of children with autism has been considered more challenging than sedation of other children. Objective: To test this hypothesis, we compared children with autism against clinical controls to determine differences in requirements for moderate sedation for MRI. Materials and methods: Children ages 18–36 months with autism (group 1, n = 41) and children with no autistic behavior (group 2, n = 42) were sedated with a combination of pentobarbital and fentanyl per sedation service protocol. The sedation nurse was consistent for all patients, and all were sedated to achieve a Modified Ramsay Score of 4. Demographics and doses of sedatives were recorded and compared. Results: There were no sedation failures in either group. Children in group 1 (autism) were significantly older than group 2 (32.02±3.6 months vs 28.16±6.7 months) and weighed significantly more (14.87±2.1 kg vs 13.42±2.2 kg). When compared on a per-kilogram basis, however, group 1 had a significantly lower fentanyl requirement than group 2 (1.25±0.55 mcg/kg vs 1.57±0.81 mcg/kg), but no significant difference was found in pentobarbital dosing between groups 1 and 2, respectively (4.92±0.92 mg/kg vs 5.21±1.6 mg/kg). Conclusion: Autistic children in this age range are not more difficult to sedate and do not require higher doses of sedative agents for noninvasive imaging studies.


Autism Moderate sedation Pentobarbital Fentanyl 



The authors would like to recognize Michele Poe, PhD, for her statistical support on this project, as well as all members of the Autism Research Group. Research supported by NIH Grant MH61696 (J. Piven) and NIH MRDDRC Grant 5 P30 HD03110 (J. Piven).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allison Kinder Ross
    • 1
  • Heather Cody Hazlett
    • 2
  • Nancy T. Garrett
    • 2
  • Christy Wilkerson
    • 3
  • Joseph Piven
    • 4
  1. 1.Division of Pediatric AnesthesiaDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of North Carolina School of MedicineChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of RadiologyDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Departments of Psychiatry and PediatricsUniversity of North Carolina School of MedicineChapel HillUSA

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