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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 81-84

Desflurane in neurosurgery: Pros

1 Bombay Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, PGIMER, Chandigarh, India

Date of Web Publication10-Feb-2017

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Smita Sharma
Bombay Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Mumbai, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jnacc.jnacc_1_17

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Neurosurgery and neuroanaesthesia are making rapid progress, and with this progress, there is the search for excellence and ideal results. The practice of neuroanaesthesia is fairly standardised today, and any debate can only be on the fine-tuning aspects of the techniques. The aim of all research in anaesthesia is to provide the best possible and safest operating conditions and to have a complete recovery at the end of the surgery. The maintenance of anaesthesia for neurosurgery is with balanced general anaesthesia which combines intravenous and inhalational agents. A review of literature shows that desflurane has definite advantages, and hence, it is an integral part of modern neuroanaesthesia.

Keywords: Cerebral vasodilatation, desflurane, neurosurgery, post-operative recovery

How to cite this article:
Sharma S, Jangra K. Desflurane in neurosurgery: Pros. J Neuroanaesthesiol Crit Care 2017;4, Suppl S1:81-4

How to cite this URL:
Sharma S, Jangra K. Desflurane in neurosurgery: Pros. J Neuroanaesthesiol Crit Care [serial online] 2017 [cited 2019 May 20];4, Suppl S1:81-4. Available from: http://www.jnaccjournal.org/text.asp?2017/4/4/81/199954

  Introduction Top

Neurosurgery is usually a long-duration surgery, and hence, the choice of the drugs used for maintenance of anaesthesia, along with good monitoring is of vital importance. The characteristics of an ideal anaesthetic agent used for the maintenance of anaesthesia in neurosurgical patients are tabulated in [Table 1]. The common drugs used in the maintenance of neuroanaesthesia in India include fentanyl, midazolam, propofol, dexmedetomidine, isoflurane, sevoflurane and desflurane.
Table 1: Characteristics of ideal anaesthetic agent

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  Desflurane in Neuroanaesthesia Top

Desflurane is a very attractive option available to anaesthetists for the maintenance of general anaesthesia. The obvious advantages urged researchers to study this drug in brain surgery. A review of literature shows that desflurane is a safe drug with respect to cerebral haemodynamics.[1] Various advantages and disadvantages of desflurane are mentioned in [Table 2].
Table 2: Advantages and disadvantages of desflurane

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  Precise Control Over the Depth of Anaesthesia Top

Desflurane has the lowest blood/gas solubility of 0.42 as compared to the solubility of other the common anaesthetic agents. This allows anaesthetic alveolar concentration to remain near inspired concentration and hence a predictable and precise control over the depth of anaesthesia. In neurosurgery, the anaesthetic requirement changes rapidly as surgical stimulus is keeps varying. Desflurane offers this distinct advantage.

  Haemodynamic Stability Top

Desflurane causes fewer episodes of intraoperative hypotension, without the occurrence of more hypertensive episodes than sevoflurane when studied using an experimental inhalation bolus technique in morbidly obese patients.[2] Furthermore, when desflurane was used for hypotensive anaesthesia, the heart rate was unchanged from baseline throughout surgery, with a significantly faster return to baseline arterial blood pressure (BP) at the end of anaesthesia, as compared to sevoflurane and propofol.[3] For both brain and more so spine surgery, some periods of good control of BP are required by the surgeon and this can be safely given with desflurane. In patients undergoing spinal surgery requiring moderate arterial hypotension, desflurane was found to maintain tighter arterial BP control than isoflurane.

  Rapid Recovery Top

This is the most important advantage of desflurane and many studies have proved it. The two dreaded complications, cerebral oedema and development of haematoma, need to be picked up at the earliest. A study by Bilotta et al. was conducted to evaluate the recovery after both sevoflurane and desflurane anaesthesia.[4] They studied the cognitive function using short orientation memory concentration test and the Rancho Los Amigos scale. In addition, the gas exchange patterns (pH, PaO2 and PaCO2) were recorded. These parameters were recorded at 15, 30, 45 and 60 min. In the desflurane group, cognitive values returned to baseline within 30 min, whereas in patients receiving sevoflurane, cognitive function recovered in 45 min. The authors also found a higher PaCO2 at 15 and 30 min and lower pH up to 45 min post-extubation in patients receiving sevoflurane-based anaesthesia. The desflurane group had earlier reversal to normocapnia and normal pH. The differences in cognitive recovery and post-operative gas exchange patterns are clinically advantageous in patients undergoing neurosurgery because they minimise the cerebral hyperaemia related to hypercarbia and allow earlier diagnosis  should a postoperative complication develop.[5] Several studies have shown that the recovery with desflurane is 15 min earlier than that with sevoflurane and this can influence the decision of the surgeon to ask for a computed tomography scan if he is not satisfied with the neuro-assessment.

  Advantage in Obese and Elderly Top

The study by Bilotta et al. was done in obese patients.[4] The advantage of desflurane in obese patients is proved by several authors.[6] By comparison, sevoflurane has a slower washout from adipose tissues. In the elderly too, the recovery from desflurane anaesthesia is faster. This becomes particularly relevant as neurosurgical procedures last for several hours, and with the average life expectancy going up, we can expect a significant number of elder patients for neurosurgery.[7]

  Renal Advantage Top

Desflurane produces almost negligible fluoride ions and this is one strong reason to prefer it over sevoflurane.[8] With emphasis on low flow gas technique, this gains more importance particularly in long-duration operations.

  Neuromonitoring Top

Monitoring of cranial nerve functions, somatosensory-evoked potential and motor-evoked potential (MEP) is becoming very common both in brain and spine surgery. Its use is going to increase with every passing year as more centres will have the equipment and trained personnel. This requires a very fine tuned balanced anaesthesia with a narcotic, propofol or dexmedetomidine and an inhalational agent to provide the ideal conditions. Propofol is the best agent as far as neuromonitoring is concerned, but we need to reduce the total dose with the help of an inhalational agent. The advantages of desflurane are that it is most effective in eliminating patient movement and also causes far less hypotension than propofol.[9] For prolonged operations, we can continuously monitor the minimum alveolar concentration (MAC) and expired concentration of inhalational agents, which is not possible for propofol. A study by Chong et al. showed that using 0.3 MAC desflurane with background anaesthesia of propofol and remifentanil causes no statistically significant difference in transcranial-evoked MEP amplitudes from the baseline in both upper limb (UL) and lower limb (LL) stimulation. However, this was not the case for sevoflurane for which even a low concentration at 0.3 MAC significantly depressed MEP amplitudes of LL (but not UL) from baseline value.[10]

  Cerebral Haemodynamics Top

Desflurane gives the fastest recovery from anaesthesia and would become the automatic choice for neurosurgery; however, for one major consideration, i.e., it causes cerebral vasodilatation and increases intracranial pressure (ICP).[11] This has prompted several researchers to study the effects of desflurane on the brain to ascertain whether this concern is theoretical or does it affect the operating conditions. All studies were done on patients who did not have a significantly raised ICP preoperatively.

Bilotta et al. in their study evaluated the neurosurgeon's impression about the brain and concluded that there was no difference between desflurane and sevoflurane.[4] Similar results were found in the study by Magni et al.[12] There have been a few Indian studies to find out the effects of desflurane on ICP. One study on supratentorial tumours was done measuring cerebrospinal fluid pressure, and also, taking the surgeon's evaluation showed that there was no difference between desflurane and sevoflurane.[13] The surgeon was blinded to the agent used.

In another study on supratentorial tumours, the researchers did a subjective analysis of intraoperative brain relaxation was by the surgeon at the various steps during surgery. These include at raising of the bone flap, at dural reflection, at tumour excision and after dural closure. The brain relaxation was graded as satisfied, not satisfied but can manage and not satisfied, and intervention is required. The attending anaesthesiologist also assessed the slackness of brain at the time of raising the bone flap and graded it as within the margin of the inner table of the skull, within the margin of the outer table of the skull and outside the margin of the outer table of the skull. The study showed no significant difference between desflurane, sevoflurane and propofol.[14]

In another study on cerebellopontine angle tumour, authors compared propofol with desflurane for maintenance and found that the brain relaxation was similar in both groups, but the emergence time was significantly more in propofol group.[15]

  Environmental Effects and Malignant Hyperpyrexia Top

All halogenated anaesthetic gases are recognised greenhouse gases and are potentially damaging to the earth's ozone layer.[16] Desflurane has the maximum environmental pollution today as halothane is hardly used anymore. There is a definite responsibility on the hospitals and individuals to minimise this.

The most important is awareness. Pollution can be reduced with the use and improved design of scavenging systems, installation of more effective general ventilation systems, low flow techniques and increased attention to equipment maintenance and leak detection. Simple practices such as not using desflurane during mask ventilation will be benefiting our environment.

Desflurane can potentiate malignant hyperpyrexia. Fortunately, it is not common in our country but this consideration should be kept in mind.

  Conclusion Top

Desflurane is a very useful inhalational drug for maintenance of anaesthesia in neurosurgery. The most important benefit is that it has the fastest recovery time. In addition, it has distinct advantage in obese, elderly and renal-compromised patients. An emerging benefit today is its usefulness in neuromonitoring. The effects on the brain have been studied and are probably theoretical and do not translate into any adverse operating conditions. To conclude, desflurane has a very definite place in neurosurgery and neuroanaesthesia.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Prabhakar H, Singh GP, Mahajan C, Kapoor I, Kalaivani M, Anand V. Intravenous versus inhalational techniques for rapid emergence from anaesthesia in patients undergoing brain tumour surgery. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016;9:CD010467.  Back to cited text no. 1
De Baerdemaeker LE, Struys MM, Jacobs S, Den Blauwen NM, Bossuyt GR, Pattyn P, et al. Optimization of desflurane administration in morbidly obese patients: A comparison with sevoflurane using an 'inhalation bolus' technique. Br J Anaesth 2003;91:638-50.  Back to cited text no. 2
Caverni V, Rosa G, Pinto G, Tordiglione P, Favaro R. Hypotensive anesthesia and recovery of cognitive function in long-term craniofacial surgery. J Craniofac Surg 2005;16:531-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
Bilotta F, Doronzio A, Cuzzone V, Caramia R, Rosa G; PINOCCHIO Study Group. Early postoperative cognitive recovery and gas exchange patterns after balanced anesthesia with sevoflurane or desflurane in overweight and obese patients undergoing craniotomy: A prospective randomized trial. J Neurosurg Anesthesiol 2009;21:207-13.  Back to cited text no. 4
Bruder N, Pellissier D, Grillot P, Gouin F. Cerebral hyperemia during recovery from general anesthesia in neurosurgical patients. Anesth Analg 2002;94:650-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
La Colla L, Albertin A, La Colla G, Mangano A. Faster wash-out and recovery for desflurane vs. sevoflurane in morbidly obese patients when no premedication is used. Br J Anaesth 2007;99:353-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
Heavner JE, Kaye AD, Lin BK, King T. Recovery of elderly patients from two or more hours of desflurane or sevoflurane anaesthesia. Br J Anaesth 2003;91:502-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
Sutton TS, Koblin DD, Gruenke LD, Weiskopf RB, Rampil IJ, Waskell L, et al. Fluoride metabolites after prolonged exposure of volunteers and patients to desflurane. Anesth Analg 1991;73:180-5.  Back to cited text no. 8
Wulf H, Ledowski T, Linstedt U, Proppe D, Sitzlack D. Neuromuscular blocking effects of rocuronium during desflurane, isoflurane, and sevoflurane anaesthesia. Can J Anaesth 1998;45:526-32.  Back to cited text no. 9
Chong CT, Manninen P, Sivanaser V, Subramanyam R, Lu N, Venkatraghavan L. Direct comparison of the effect of desflurane and sevoflurane on intraoperative motor-evoked potentials monitoring. J Neurosurg Anesthesiol 2014;26:306-12.  Back to cited text no. 10
Sakabe T, Matsumoto M. Effects of anesthetic agents and other drugs on cerebral blood flow, metabolism, and intracranial pressure. In: Cottrell JE, Young WL, editors. Neuroanesthesia. 5 th ed. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. p. 83.  Back to cited text no. 11
Magni G, Rosa IL, Melillo G, Savio A, Rosa G. A comparison between sevoflurane and desflurane anesthesia in patients undergoing craniotomy for supratentorial intracranial surgery. Anesth Analg 2009;109:567-71.  Back to cited text no. 12
Dube SK, Pandia MP, Chaturvedi A, Bithal P, Dash HH. Comparison of intraoperative brain condition, hemodynamics and postoperative recovery between desflurane and sevoflurane in patients undergoing supratentorial craniotomy. Saudi J Anaesth 2015;9:167-73.  Back to cited text no. 13
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Bastola P, Bhagat H, Wig J. Comparative evaluation of propofol, sevoflurane and desflurane for neuroanaesthesia: A prospective randomised study in patients undergoing elective supratentorial craniotomy. Indian J Anaesth 2015;59:287-94.  Back to cited text no. 14
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Bhat M, Bhagat H, Bhukal I, et al. Prospective randomized evaluation of propofol and desflurane in patients undergoing surgery for cerebellopontine angle. Available from: http://www.apicareonline.com.  Back to cited text no. 15
Yasny JS, White J. Environmental implications of anesthetic gases. Anesth Prog 2012;59:154-8.  Back to cited text no. 16


  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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Desflurane in Ne...
Precise Control ...
Haemodynamic Sta...
Rapid Recovery
Advantage in Obe...
Renal Advantage
Cerebral Haemody...
Environmental Ef...
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