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Anesth Analg. 1990 Dec;71(6):586-90.

Effect on outcome of prolonged exposure of patients to nitrous oxide.

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


Prolonged (several days or repeated) exposure to nitrous oxide (N2O) can cause injury or death. To assess whether relatively prolonged anesthesia with N2O in normal patients might similarly cause untoward effects, we investigated whether the addition of N2O to isoflurane anesthesia caused injury to patients having surgical resection of acoustic neuroma lasting approximately 10 h. Twenty-six patients undergoing surgical resection of acoustic neuroma were randomly assigned to a regimen that included or excluded N2O (50%-60%) during isoflurane anesthesia plus intravenous adjuvants. On average, slightly less isoflurane (0.24%) was used during anesthesia with N2O. We measured standard clinical variables (blood pressure, heart rate), oxygen saturation, neurologic status, pain, and the incidence and type of morbid outcomes. Exposure to N2O did not increase the incidence of morbid outcomes (including hepatic injury, infection, or hypoxemia), prolong hospitalization, or increase common postoperative complaints such as nausea, vomiting, coughing, or headache. Patients anesthetized with either regimen were equally satisfied with their anesthetic.

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