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Anesthesiology. 1998 Jun;88(6):1459-66.

Upper airway reflexes during a combination of propofol and fentanyl anesthesia.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Chiba University School of Medicine, Japan.



The effects of intravenous anesthetics on airway protective reflexes have not been fully explored. The purpose of the present study was to characterize respiratory and laryngeal responses to laryngeal irritation during increasing doses of fentanyl under propofol anesthesia.


Twenty-two female patients anesthetized with propofol and breathing through the laryngeal mask airway were randomly allocated to three groups: (1) eight patients who received cumulative total doses of 200 microg fentanyl given in the form of two doses of 50 microg and one dose of 100 microg spaced 6 min under mechanical controlled ventilation while end-tidal carbon dioxide tension (PCO2) was maintained at 38 mmHg (fentanyl-controlled ventilation group), (2) eight patients who received cumulative total doses of 200 microg fentanyl while breathing spontaneously while end-tidal PCO2 was allowed to increase spontaneously (fentanyl-spontaneous ventilation group), and (3) six spontaneously breathing patients who were anesthetized with propofol alone (propofol group). The laryngeal mucosa of each patient was stimulated by spraying the cord with distilled water, and the evoked responses were assessed by analyzing the respiratory variables and endoscopic images.


Before administration of fentanyl, laryngeal stimulation caused vigorous reflex responses, such as expiration reflex spasmodic panting, cough reflex, and apnea with laryngospasm. Increasing doses of fentanyl reduced the incidences of all these responses, except for apnea with laryngospasm, in a dose-related manner in both the fentanyl-controlled ventilation and the fentanyl-spontaneous ventilation groups. Detailed analysis of endoscopic images revealed several characteristics of laryngeal behavior during the airway reflex responses.


Incremental doses of fentanyl depress airway reflex responses in a dose-related manner, except for apnea with laryngospasm.

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