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Eur J Anaesthesiol. 2005 Aug;22(8):616-23.

Effects of different anaesthetic agents on immune cell function in vitro.

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Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg, Leipziger Strasse 44, D-39120 Magdeburg, Germany.



Anaesthesia may affect the regulatory balance of postoperative immune response. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of different volatile and non-volatile anaesthetic agents and particularly of clinically used agent combinations on the proliferation capacity and cytokine production of immune cells.


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy donors were PHA-activated in the presence or absence of various concentrations of thiopental, propofol, fentanyl, sufentanil, sevoflurane, nitrous oxide and combinations of these anaesthetics. Cell proliferation was assessed by tritiated thymidine uptake. Interleukin-2 production and release of the soluble IL-2 receptor were determined by enzyme immunoassays and used as measures of lymphocyte activation.


Thiopental inhibited cell proliferation in a dose dependent manner (P < 0.001) and reduced sIL-2R release (2090-970 microg mL(-1); P < 0.05). Propofol reduced sIL-2R release at the high concentration of 10 microg mL(-1) (2220 pg mL(-1) 1780 microg mL(-1); p < 0.05). Fentanyl and sufentanil did not compensate for or enhance the inhibitory effects of thiopental. Nitrous oxide, but not sevoflurane, reduced the proliferation of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (P < 0.05). In combinations with thiopental or nitrous oxide, sevoflurane compensated the inhibitory effects of these two agents. Fentanyl, sufentanil, sevoflurane and nitrous oxide did not affect PHA-induced IL-2 and sIL-2 receptor release by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells.


Thiopental and nitrous oxide have immunosuppressive activity. In contrast, sevoflurane may have a beneficial effect by alleviating the immunosuppressive effects of both substances.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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