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Anesthesiology. 1998 Apr;88(4):955-61.

Suppression of spinal cord motoneuron excitability correlates with surgical immobility during isoflurane anesthesia.

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Department of Anesthesiology, New York University Medical Center, New York 10016, USA.



Recent evidence suggests that the spinal cord is an important site of anesthetic action that produces surgical immobility. Inhalation anesthetics depress the Hoffmann's reflex (H reflex) and F wave, indicating spinal motoneuron suppression. The aim of this study was to assess the correlation between isoflurane-induced immobility and H- and F-wave suppression.


The baseline H reflex and F wave were measured before anesthesia in 15 adult patients. After induction, 1% end-tidal isoflurane was maintained for 20 min before the H and F waves were reelicited. Using an electric stimulus applied to the forearm and grading the response as movement or no movement, the authors increased or decreased the isoflurane concentration in 0.1% steps, depending on the movement responses. The H and F waves were recorded 20 min after each change of isoflurane concentration. The correlation between H- and F-wave suppression and surgical immobility was analyzed using a paired t test with Bonferroni correction.


H-reflex amplitude (2.74 +/- 1.63 mV) and F-wave persistence (70.69 +/- 26.19%) at the highest isoflurane concentration that allowed movement response to a stimulus are different (P < 0.01) from these (1.97 +/- 1.46 mV; 43.16 +/- 22.91%) at the lowest isoflurane concentration that suppressed response. At 0.8% isoflurane, the H-reflex amplitude was 3.69 +/- 1.83 mV with movement and 1.01 +/- 1.14 mV without movement (P < 0.01); F-wave amplitude was 0.29 +/- 0.15 mV with movement and 0.11 +/- 0.06 mV without movement (P < 0.01); F-wave persistence was 80 +/- 22.36% with movement and 34.9 +/- 25.75% without movement (P < 0.01).


The degree of H- and F-wave amplitude and F-wave persistence suppression correlates with movement response, suggesting that isoflurane-suppressive action in the spinal cord plays a significant role in producing surgical immobility.

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