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Anesth Analg. 2008 Aug;107(2):494-506. doi: 10.1213/ane.0b013e31817b859e.

Is synergy the rule? A review of anesthetic interactions producing hypnosis and immobility.

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Department of Anesthesia, Onze Lieve Vrouw Hospital, Moorselbaan 164, 9300 Aalst, Belgium.



Drug interactions may reveal mechanisms of drug action: additive interactions suggest a common site of action, and synergistic interactions suggest different sites of action. We applied this reasoning in a review of published data on anesthetic drug interactions for the end-points of hypnosis and immobility.


We searched Medline for all manuscripts listing propofol, etomidate, methohexital, thiopental, midazolam, diazepam, ketamine, dexmedetomidine, clonidine, morphine, fentanyl, sufentanil, alfentanil, remifentanil, droperidol, metoclopramide, lidocaine, halothane, enflurane, isoflurane, sevoflurane, desflurane, N2O, and Xe that contained terms suggesting interaction: interaction, additive, additivity, synergy, synergism, synergistic, antagonism, antagonistic, isobologram, or isobolographic. When available, data were reanalyzed using fraction analysis or response surface analysis.


Between drug classes, most interactions were synergistic. The major exception was ketamine, which typically interacted in either an additive or infra-additive (antagonistic) manner. Inhaled anesthetics typically showed synergy with IV anesthetics, but were additive or, in the case of nitrous oxide and isoflurane, possibly infra-additive, with each other.


Except for ketamine, IV anesthetics acting at different sites usually demonstrated synergy. Inhaled anesthetics usually demonstrated synergy with IV anesthetics, but no pair of inhaled anesthetics interacted synergistically.

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