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Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2004 May;48(5):547-61.

Effects of volatile anesthetics on cardiac ion channels.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University Hospital, Rheinisch-Westfalische-Technische Hochschule (RWTH), Aachen, Germany.


The focus of the present review is on how interference with various ion channels in the heart may be the molecular basis for cardiac side-effects of gaseous anesthetics. Electrophysiological studies in isolated animal and human cardiomyocytes have identified the L-type Ca(2+) channel as a prominent target of anesthetics. Since this ion channel is of fundamental importance for the plateau phase of the cardiac action potential as well as for Ca(2+)-mediated electromechanical coupling, its inhibition may facilitate arrhythmias by shortening the refractory period and may decrease the contractile force. Effective inhibition of this ion channel has been shown for clinically used concentrations of halothane and, to a lesser extent, of isoflurane and sevoflurane, whereas xenon was without effect. Anesthetics furthermore inhibit several types of voltage-gated K(+) channels. Thereby, they may disturb the repolarization and bear a considerable risk for the induction of ventricular tachycardia in predisposed patients. In future, an advanced understanding of cardiac side-effects of anesthetics will derive from more detailed analyses of how and which channels are affected as well as from a better comprehension of how altered channel function influences heart function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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