Early sedation with dexmedetomidine in ventilated critically ill patients and heterogeneity of treatment effect in the SPICE III randomised controlled trial

Yahya Shehabi, Ary Serpa Neto, Belinda D. Howe, Rinaldo Bellomo, Y. Arabi, Michael Bailey, Frances E. Bass, Suhaini Bin Kadiman, Colin J. McArthur, Michael C. Reade, Ian M. Seppelt, J. Takala, Matt P. Wise, Steve A. Webb, on behalf of The SPICE III study investigators

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Purpose: To quantify potential heterogeneity of treatment effect (HTE), of early sedation with dexmedetomidine (DEX) compared with usual care, and identify patients who have a high probability of lower or higher 90-day mortality according to age, and other identified clusters. Methods: Bayesian analysis of 3904 critically ill adult patients expected to receive invasive ventilation > 24 h and enrolled in a multinational randomized controlled trial comparing early DEX with usual care sedation. Results: HTE was assessed according to age and clusters (based on 12 baseline characteristics) using a Bayesian hierarchical models. DEX was associated with lower 90-day mortality compared to usual care in patients > 65 years (odds ratio [OR], 0.83 [95% credible interval [CrI] 0.68–1.00], with 97.7% probability of reduced mortality across broad categories of illness severity. Conversely, the probability of increased mortality in patients ≤ 65 years was 98.5% (OR 1.26 [95% CrI 1.02–1.56]. Two clusters were identified: cluster 1 (976 patients) mostly operative, and cluster 2 (2346 patients), predominantly non-operative. There was a greater probability of benefit with DEX in cluster 1 (OR 0.86 [95% CrI 0.65–1.14]) across broad categories of age, with 86.4% probability that DEX is more beneficial in cluster 1 than cluster 2. Conclusion: In critically ill mechanically ventilated patients, early sedation with dexmedetomidine exhibited a high probability of reduced 90-day mortality in older patients regardless of operative or non-operative cluster status. Conversely, a high probability of increased 90-day mortality was observed in younger patients of non-operative status. Further studies are needed to confirm these findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455–466
Number of pages12
JournalIntensive Care Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Critically ill
  • Dexmedetomidine
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Mortality
  • Sedation

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