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Anaesthesia. 2016 May;71(5):529-34. doi: 10.1111/anae.13410. Epub 2016 Feb 26.

The effect of titrated fentanyl on suppressed cough reflex in healthy adult volunteers.

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Department of Communication Disorders, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Christchurch Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.


Cough suppression is part of the pharmacodynamic profile of opioids. We investigated the impact of clinical doses of fentanyl on suppressing the cough reflex. Thirteen volunteers received 2 μ of fentanyl in a divided administration protocol. Three minutes after each administration and at 10 min intervals during washout, suppressed cough reflex testing with nebulised citric acid was performed and compared with fentanyl effect-site concentration. Mean (SD) citric acid concentration provoking cough increased from 0.5 (0.28) mol.l(-1) at baseline to 1.2 (0.50) mol.l(-1) after 2 μ of fentanyl (p = 0.01). Mean (SD) fentanyl effect-site concentration after the final dose of fentanyl was 1.89 (0.05) . A strong positive correlation was found between suppressed cough reflex thresholds and fentanyl effect-site concentrations during both fentanyl administration and washout phases of the study (r(2) = 0.79, p = 0.01). The mean (SD) length of time for return of suppressed cough response was 44.6 (18.8) min. Clinically relevant doses of fentanyl produced cough reflex suppression in healthy volunteers.


anaesthesia; cough reflex; opioids: fentanyl; pharmacology

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