Conscious sedation with dexmedetomidine compared with asleep-awake-asleep craniotomies in glioma surgery: an analysis of 180 patients

Eric Suero Molina*, Stephanie Schipmann, Isabelle Mueller, Johannes Wölfer, Christian Ewelt, Matthias Maas, Benjamin Brokinkel, Walter Stummer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE Awake craniotomies have become a feasible tool over time to treat brain tumors located in eloquent regions. Different techniques have been applied in neurooncology centers. Both “asleep-awake-asleep” (asleep) and “conscious sedation” were used subsequently at the authors’ neurosurgical department. Since 2013, the authors have only performed conscious sedation surgeries, predominantly using the α2-receptor agonist dexmedetomidine as the anesthetic drug. The aim of this study was to compare both mentioned techniques and evaluate the clinical use of dexmedetomidine in the setting of awake craniotomies for glioma surgery. 

METHODS The authors retrospectively analyzed patients who underwent operations either under the asleep condition using propofol-remifentanil or under conscious sedation conditions using dexmedetomidine infusions. In the asleep group patients were intubated with a laryngeal mask and extubated for the assessment period. Adverse events, as well as applied drugs with doses and frequency of usage, were recorded. 

RESULTS From 224 awake surgeries between 2009 and 2015, 180 were performed for the resection of gliomas and included in the study. In the conscious sedation group (n = 75) significantly fewer opiates (p < 0.001) and vasoactive (p < 0.001) and antihypertensive (p < 0.001) drugs were used in comparison with the asleep group (n = 105). Furthermore, the postoperative length of stay (p < 0.001) and the surgical duration (p < 0.001) were significantly lower in the conscious sedation group. 

CONCLUSIONS Use of dexmedetomidine creates excellent conditions for awake surgeries. It sedates moderately and acts as an anxiolytic. Thus, after ceasing infusion it enables quick and reliable clinical neurological assessment of patients. This might lead to reducing the amount of administered antihypertensive and vasoactive drugs as well as the length of hospitalization, while likely ensuring more rapid surgery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1230
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • awake craniotomy
  • glioma
  • dexmedetomidine
  • surgical technique
  • sedation


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