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Anesthesiology. 1998 May;88(5):1227-32.

Desflurane-mediated sympathetic activation occurs in humans despite preventing hypotension and baroreceptor unloading.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesiology, Medical College of Wisconsin and VA Medical Center, Milwaukee 53295, USA.



Increasing concentrations of desflurane result in progressive decreases in blood pressure (BP) and, unlike other currently marketed, potent volatile anesthetics, heightened sympathetic nervous system activity. This study aimed to determine whether baroreflex mechanisms are involved in desflurane-mediated sympathetic excitation.


Healthy volunteers were anesthetized with desflurane (n = 8) or isoflurane (n = 9). Heart rate (HR; measured by electrocardiograph), blood pressure (BP; measured by arterial catheter), and efferent sympathetic nerve activity (SNA; obtained from percutaneous recordings from the peroneal nerve) were monitored. Baroreflex sensitivity was evaluated at baseline while volunteers were conscious and during 0.5, 1, and 1.5 minimum alveolar concentration (MAC) anesthesia via bolus injections of nitroprusside (100 microg) and phenylephrine (150 microg) to decrease and increase BP. To prevent the BP decline with increasing depths of anesthesia, phenylephrine was infused to maintain mean BP at the 0.5 MAC level.


The HR, BP, and SNA were similar between the groups at the conscious baseline measurement. Efferent SNA did not change during higher MAC of isoflurane, but it increased progressively as desflurane concentrations were increased beyond 0.5 MAC, despite maintaining BP at the 0.5 MAC value with phenylephrine infusions (P < 0.05). Cardiac baroslopes (based on changes in HR) were progressively and similarly decreased with increasing concentrations of isoflurane and desflurane (P < 0.05). Sympathetic baroslopes (based on SNA) decreased with increasing isoflurane concentrations but were maintained with increasing concentrations of desflurane; the response was significantly different between groups.


The increase in basal levels of SNA with increasing concentrations of desflurane persisted despite "fixing" BP and thus is probably not due to hypotension and unloading of the baroreceptors. Further, the preservation of reflex increases in SNA to nitroprusside during desflurane indicates that desflurane preserves one component of the baroreflex in humans when BP is "fixed."

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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