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Anesth Analg. 1999 Apr;88(4):867-76.

Minimum alveolar anesthetic concentration of fluorinated alkanols in rats: relevance to theories of narcosis.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesia, University of California San Francisco 94143-0464, USA.


The Meyer-Overton hypothesis predicts that the potency of conventional inhaled anesthetics correlates inversely with lipophilicity: minimum alveolar anesthetic concentration (MAC) x the olive oil/gas partition coefficient equals a constant of approximately 1.82 +/- 0.56 atm (mean +/- SD), whereas MAC x the octanol/gas partition coefficient equals a constant of approximately 2.55 +/- 0.65 atm. MAC is the minimum alveolar concentration of anesthetic required to eliminate movement in response to a noxious stimulus in 50% of subjects. Although MAC x the olive oil/gas partition coefficient also equals a constant for normal alkanols from methanol through octanol, the constant (0.156 +/- 0.072 atm) is one-tenth that found for conventional anesthetics, whereas the product for MAC x the octanol/gas partition coefficient (1.72 +/- 1.19) is similar to that for conventional anesthetics. These normal alkanols also have much greater affinities for water (saline/gas partition coefficients equaling 708 [octanol] to 3780 [methanol]) than do conventional anesthetics. In the present study, we examined whether fluorination lowers alkanol saline/gas partition coefficients (i.e., decreases polarity) while sustaining or increasing lipid/gas partition coefficients, and whether alkanols with lower saline/gas partition coefficients had products of MAC x olive oil or octanol/gas partition coefficients that approached or exceeded those of conventional anesthetics. Fluorination decreased saline/gas partition coefficients to as low as 0.60 +/- 0.08 (CF3[CF2]6CH2OH) and, as hypothesized, increased the product of MAC x the olive oil or octanol/gas partition coefficients to values equaling or exceeding those found for conventional anesthetics. We conclude that the greater potency of many alkanols (greater than would be predicted from conventional inhaled anesthetics and the Meyer-Overton hypothesis) is associated with their greater polarity.


Inhaled anesthetic potency correlates with lipophilicity, but potency of common alkanols is greater than their lipophilicity indicates, in part because alkanols have a greater hydrophilicity--i.e., a greater polarity.

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