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Eur J Anaesthesiol. 2012 Aug;29(8):371-9. doi: 10.1097/EJA.0b013e32835422db.

A multicentre, randomised, open-label, controlled trial evaluating equivalence of inhalational and intravenous anaesthesia during elective craniotomy.

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  • 1Neuroanesthesia and Neurointensive Care Unit, Anestesia e Rianimazione, San Gerardo Hospital, via Pergolesi 33, Monza 20900, Milano, Italy. g.citerio@hsgerardo.org



A clear preference for intravenous or inhalational anaesthesia has not been established for craniotomy in patients without signs of cerebral hypertension.


The NeuroMorfeo trial was designed to test equivalence of inhalational and intravenous anaesthesia maintenance techniques in the postoperative recovery of patients undergoing elective supratentorial surgery.


This trial is a multicentre, randomised, open-label, equivalence design. A balanced stratified randomisation scheme was maintained using a centralised randomisation service. Equivalence was tested using the two one-sided tests procedure.


Fourteen Italian neuroanaesthesia centres participated in the study from December 2007 to March 2009.


Adults, 18 to 75 years old, scheduled for elective supratentorial intracranial surgery under general anaesthesia were eligible for enrolment if they had a normal preoperative level of consciousness and no clinical signs of intracranial hypertension.


Patients were randomised to one of three anaesthesia maintenance protocols to determine if sevoflurane-remifentanil or sevoflurane-fentanyl were equivalent to propofol-remifentanil.


The primary outcome was the time to achieve an Aldrete postanaesthesia score of at least 9 after tracheal extubation. Secondary endpoints included haemodynamic parameters, quality of the surgical field, perioperative neuroendocrine stress responses and routine postoperative assessments.


Four hundred and eleven patients [51% men, mean age 54.8 (SD 13.3) years] were enrolled. Primary outcome data were available for 380. Median (interquartiles) times to reach an Aldrete score of at least 9 were 3.48 (2.02 to 7.56), 3.25 (1.21 to 6.45) and 3.32  min (1.40 to 8.33) for sevoflurane-fentanyl, sevoflurane-remifentanil and propofol-remifentanil anaesthesia respectively, which confirmed equivalence using the two one-sided tests approach. Between-treatment differences in haemodynamic variables were small and not clinically relevant. Urinary catecholamine and cortisol responses had significantly lower activation with propofol-remifentanil. Postoperative pain and analgesic requirements were significantly higher in the remifentanil groups.


Equivalence was shown for inhalational and intravenous maintenance anaesthesia in times to reach an Aldrete score of at least 9 after tracheal extubation. Haemodynamic variables, the quality of surgical field and postoperative assessments were also similar. Perioperative endocrine stress responses were significantly blunted with propofol-remifentanil and higher analgesic requirements were recorded in the remifentanil groups.


Eudract 2007-005279-32.

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