Satisfactory conditions for auditory brainstem responses (ABR) screening tests for pediatric hearing loss are usually achieved with oral chloral hydrate (CH) sedation. When the US manufacture of this drug was discontinued for business reasons, we developed an alternative sedation regimen using intranasal dexmedetomidine (IN DEX) 4 μg/kg. This institutional review board–approved retrospective study compared the efficacy and adverse effect profiles of these 2 sedative regimens.


Medical records of children receiving oral CH or IN DEX for ABR were surveyed for demographic data and times from sedative administration to start and completion of the ABR procedure and recovery times. We also noted if the examination was completed with or without interruptions, failed for inadequate sedation, and if predefined cardiorespiratory adverse events occurred.


In the IN DEX cohort, the examination could be completed more frequently with a single dose of medication (P = .002). Satisfactory sedation in these patients permitted an earlier start of both the ABR examination and recovery to the awake status (P < .001 and < .045, respectively). Hypoxia requiring oxygen therapy was more frequent in the CH group.


This retrospective study found that IN DEX provides effective sedation for ABR examinations, with the benefits of an ability to begin the test sooner and complete the examination with a single dose, in addition to a decreased incidence of hypoxemia. A randomized controlled trial should test the hypothesis that the IN DEX technique is superior to the well-established standard oral CH regimen.

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