Dexmedetomidine and meperidine additively reduce the shivering threshold in humans

Anthony G. Doufas, Chun Ming Lin, Mohammad Irfan Suleman, Edwin B. Liem, Rainer Lenhardt, Nobutada Morioka, Ozan Akça, Yunus M. Shah, Andrew R. Bjorksten, Daniel I. Sessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose - Hypothermia might prove to be therapeutically beneficial in stroke victims; however, even mild hypothermia provokes vigorous shivering. Meperidine and dexmedetomidine each linearly reduce the shivering threshold (triggering core temperature) with minimal sedation. We tested the hypothesis that meperidine and dexmedetomidine synergistically reduce the shivering threshold without producing substantial sedation or respiratory depression. Methods - We studied 10 healthy male volunteers (18 to 40 years) on 4 days: (1) control (no drug); (2) meperidine (target plasma level 0.3 μg/mL); (3) dexmedetomidine (target plasma level 0.4 ng/mL); and (4) meperidine plus dexmedetomidine (target plasma levels of 0.3 μg/mL and 0.4 ng/mL, respectively). Lactated Ringer's solution (≈4°C) was infused through a central venous catheter to decrease tympanic membrane temperature by ≈2.5°C/h; mean skin temperature was maintained at 31°C. An increase in oxygen consumption >25% of baseline identified the shivering threshold. Sedation was evaluated by using the Observer's Assessment of Sedation/Alertness scale. Two-way repeated-measures ANOVA was used to identify interactions between drugs. Data are presented as mean±SD; P<0.05 was statistically significant. Results - The shivering thresholds on the study days were as follows: control, 36.7±0.3°C; dexmedetomidine, 36.0±0.5°C (P<0.001 from control); meperidine, 35.5±0.6°C (P<0.001); and meperidine plus dexmedetomidine, 34.7±0.6°C (P<0.001). Although meperidine and dexmedetomidine each reduced the shivering threshold, their interaction was not synergistic but additive (P=0.19). There was trivial sedation with either drug alone or in combination. Respiratory rate and end-tidal PCO2 were well preserved on all days. Conclusions - Dexmedetomidine and meperidine additively reduce the shivering threshold; in the small doses tested, the combination produced only mild sedation and no respiratory toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1218-1223
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Body temperature regulation
  • Dexmedetomidine
  • Hypothermia
  • Meperidine
  • Stroke
  • Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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