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Anesthesiology. 1993 May;78(5):864-9.

Isoflurane minimum alveolar concentration reduction by fentanyl.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710.



Isoflurane is commonly combined with fentanyl during anesthesia. Because of hysteresis between plasma and effect site, bolus administration of fentanyl does not accurately describe the interaction between these drugs. The purpose of this study was to determine the MAC reduction of isoflurane by fentanyl when both drugs had reached steady biophase concentrations.


Seventy-seven patients were randomly allocated to receive either no fentanyl or fentanyl at several predetermined plasma concentrations. Fentanyl was administered using a computer-assisted continuous infusion device. Patients were also randomly allocated to receive a predetermined steady state end-tidal concentration of isoflurane. Blood samples for fentanyl concentration were taken at 10 min after initiation of the infusion and before and immediately after skin incision. A minimum of 20 min was allowed between the start of the fentanyl infusion and skin incision. The reduction in the MAC of isoflurane by the measured fentanyl concentration was calculated using a maximum likelihood solution to a logistic regression model.


There was an initial steep reduction in the MAC of isoflurane by fentanyl, with 3 ng/ml resulting in a 63% MAC reduction. A ceiling effect was observed with 10 ng/ml providing only a further 19% reduction in MAC. A 50% decrease in MAC was produced by a fentanyl concentration of 1.67 ng/ml.


Defining the MAC reduction of isoflurane by all the opioids allows their more rational administration with inhalational anesthetics and provides a comparison of their relative anesthetic potencies.

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