Influence of a constant rate infusion of dexmedetomidine on cardiopulmonary function and recovery quality in isoflurane anaesthetized horses


Miguel Gozalo Marcilla, Department of Surgery and Anaesthesia of Domestic Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ghent, Salisburylaan 133, B-9820 Merelbeke, Belgium. E-mail:


Objective  To investigate the influence of a dexmedetomidine constant rate infusion (CRI) in horses anaesthetized with isoflurane.

Study design  Prospective, randomized, blinded, clinical study.

Animals  Forty adult healthy horses (weight mean 491 ± SD 102 kg) undergoing elective surgery.

Methods  After sedation [dexmedetomidine, 3.5  μg  kg−1 intravenously (IV)] and induction IV (midazolam 0.06 mg kg−1, ketamine 2.2 mg kg−1), anaesthesia was maintained with isoflurane in oxygen/air (FiO2 55–60%). Horses were ventilated and dobutamine was administered when hypoventilation [arterial partial pressure of CO2 > 8.00 kPa (60 mmHg)] and hypotension [arterial pressure 70 mmHg] occurred respectively. During anaesthesia, horses were randomly allocated to receive a CRI of dexmedetomidine (1.75 μg kg−1 hour−1) (D) or saline (S). Monitoring included end-tidal isoflurane concentration, cardiopulmonary parameters, and need for dobutamine and additional ketamine. All horses received 0.875 μg kg−1 dexmedetomidine IV for the recovery period. Age and weight of the horses, duration of anaesthesia, additional ketamine and dobutamine, cardiopulmonary data (anova), recovery scores (Wilcoxon Rank Sum Test), duration of recovery (t-test) and attempts to stand (Mann–Whitney test) were compared between groups. Significance was set at p < 0.05.

Results  Heart rate and arterial partial pressure of oxygen were significantly lower in group D compared to group S. An interaction between treatment and time was present for cardiac index, oxygen delivery index and systemic vascular resistance. End-tidal isoflurane concentration and heart rate significantly increased over time. Packed cell volume, systolic, diastolic and mean arterial pressure, arterial oxygen content, stroke volume index and systemic vascular resistance significantly decreased over time. Recovery scores were significantly better in group D, with fewer attempts to stand and significantly longer times to sternal position and first attempt to stand.

Conclusions and clinical relevance  A dexmedetomidine CRI produced limited cardiopulmonary effects, but significantly improved recovery quality.