We compared the sedative, hemodynamic, and respiratory effects of dexmedetomidine and propofol in children undergoing magnetic resonance imaging procedures. Sixty children were randomly distributed into two groups: The dexmedetomidine (D) roup received 1 mu g/kg initial dose followed by continuous infusion of 0.5 mu g center dot kg(-1) center dot h(-1 and a) ropofol group (P) received 3 mg/kg initial dose followed by a continuous infusion of 100 mu g center dot kg(-1)center dot min(-1). Inadequate sedation was defined as difficulty in completing the procedure because of the child's movement during magnetic resonance imaging. Mean arterial pressure (MAP), heart rate, peripheral oxygen saturation, and respiratory rate (RR) were recorded during the study. The onset of sedation, recovery, and discharge time were significantly shorter in group P than in group D. MAP, heart rate, and RR decreased during sedation from the baseline values in both groups. MAP and RR were significantly lower in group P than in group D during sedation. Desaturation was observed in four children of group P. Dexmedetomidine and propofol provided adequate sedation in most of the children. We conclude that although propofol provided faster anesthetic induction and recovery times, it caused hypotension and desaturation. Thus, dexmedetomidine could be an alternative reliable sedative drug to propofol in selected patients.