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Anesth Analg. 2003 Dec;97(6):1652-6.

The effect of antiemetics on pupillary reflex dilation during epidural/general anesthesia.

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Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143-0648, USA.


The effect of dopamine D2 receptor antagonists, such as chlorpromazine and haloperidol, on pupil size in awake subjects suggests that these drugs might also alter pupillary reflex dilation and pupil size during general anesthesia. Forty-seven patients undergoing lower abdominal surgery under combined epidural/general anesthesia were randomized to receive one of the 5 following open labeled drugs: 10 mL saline, 0.13 mg/kg ondansetron, 0.25 mg/kg metoclopramide, 0.5 mg/kg metoclopramide, or 0.02 mg/kg droperidol. Three measurements of reflex dilation were taken at 5-min intervals and after the last measurement (time 0) the drug was administered. Measurements were then taken 5, 10, 20, and 40 min after I.V. drug administration. Reflex dilation was induced by intermittent noxious stimulation of the C5 dermatome with a tetanic electric current (60-70 mamp, 100 Hz, 3-s duration) after a stable level of epidural analgesia had been established with 3/8% bupivacaine and maintained with a continuous infusion. Metoclopramide produced a small decrease in pupil diameter and transiently depressed reflex dilation, whereas droperidol decreased pupil size at 10 min and depressed reflex dilation throughout the 40-min study period. Maximal change in reflex dilation was -6.6 +/- 3.3 mm-sec after droperidol. Ondansetron had no effect on pupil diameter or reflex dilation. When pupillary diameter measurements are used to gauge opioid levels during experimental conditions or during surgical anesthesia, antiemetic medication acting on the dopamine D2 receptor should be avoided.


Miosis is often considered an effect of opioid administration during general anesthesia, but other drugs, such as antiemetics, might produce a similar effect on the pupil. This study demonstrates that 2 antiemetics, droperidol and metoclopramide, constrict the pupil and block the pupillary dilation brought about by nociceptive stimuli.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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