Optimal Sedation and Pain Management: A Patient-and Symptom-Oriented Paradigm

Yahya Shehabi, Wisam Al-Bassam, Adrian Pakavakis, Brendan Murfin, Belinda Howe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


In the critically ill patient, optimal pain and sedation management remains the cornerstone of achieving comfort, safety, and to facilitate complex life support interventions. Pain relief, using multimodal analgesia, is an integral component of any orchestrated approach to achieve clinically appropriate goals in critically ill patients. Sedative management, however, remains a significant challenge. Subsequent studies including most recent randomized trials have failed to provide strong evidence in favor of a sedative agent, a mode of sedation or ancillary protocols such as sedative interruption and sedative minimization. In addition, clinical practice guidelines, despite a comprehensive evaluation of relevant literature, have limitations when applied to individual patients. These limitations have been most apparent during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. As such, there is a need for a mindset shift to a practical and achievable sedation strategy, driven by patients' characteristics and individual patient needs, rather than one cocktail for all patients. In this review, we present key principles to achieve patient-and symptom-oriented optimal analgesia and sedation in the critically ill patients. Sedative intensity should be proportionate to care complexity with due consideration to an individual patient's modifiers. The use of multimodal analgesics, sedatives, and antipsychotics agents-that are easily titratable-reduces the overall quantum of sedatives and opioids, and reduces the risk of adverse events while maximizing clinical benefits. In addition, critical considerations regarding the choice of sedative agents should be given to factors such as age, medical versus operative diagnosis, and cardiovascular status. Specific populations such as trauma, neurological injury, and pregnancy should also be taken into account to maximize efficacy and reduce adverse events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-111
Number of pages14
JournalSeminars in Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • COVID-19
  • intensive care
  • mechanical ventilation
  • sedation and analgesia
  • sedation protocol

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