Objective To explore the use of sedatives and analgesics, tools for scoring level of sedation, sedation and pain protocols, and daily interruptions in sedation in Australian and New Zealand intensive care units and to examine doctors’ and nurses’ opinions about the sedation management of critically ill patients.
Methods A cross-sectional Internet-based survey design was used. In total, 2146 members of professional critical care organizations in Australia and New Zealand were e-mailed the survey during a 4-month period in 2006 through 2007.
Results Of 348 members (16% response rate) who accessed the survey, 246 (71%) completed all sections. Morphine, fentanyl, midazolam, and propofol were the most commonly used medicines. Newer medicines, such as dexmedetomidine and remifentanil, and inhalant medications, such as nitrous oxide and isoflurane, were rarely used by most respondents. Respondents used protocols to manage sedatives (54%) and analgesics (51%), and sedation assessment tools were regularly used by 72%. A total of 62% reported daily interruption of sedation; 23% used daily interruption for more than 75% of patients. A disparity was evident between respondents’ opinions on how deeply patients were usually sedated in practice and how deeply patients should ideally be sedated.
Conclusions Newer medications are used much less than are traditional sedatives and analgesics. Sedation protocols are increasingly used in Australasia, despite equivocal evidence supporting their use. Similarly, daily interruption of sedation is common in management of patients receiving mechanical ventilation. Research is needed to explore contextual and personal factors that may affect sedation management.