Recovery of ventilatory response to carbon dioxide after thiopentone, morphine and fentanyl in man
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Ventilatory responses to CO2 (delta VI/delta PCO2) were measured half, one, two and four hours after infusions of thiopentone, morphine, fentanyl and saline in healthy men in order to test the idea that variation in clinical recovery and control of breathing after anaesthetic drugs are associated with interindividual differences in control measurements of delta VI/delta PCO2. Ventilatory response to CO2 was profoundly reduced one half hour after each drug, in contrast to the observation during air breathing that ventilation and end tidal PCO2 had returned to within 10 per cent of control. Mean delta VI/delta PCO2 increased progressively at one, two, and four hours, returning to near control after thiopentone, but remaining less than 80 per cent of control four hours after morphine and fentanyl. From the regression equations of each ventilatory response, ventilation at PCO2 of 58 and 70 mmHg (VI58 and VI70) were computed to estimate displacement of the response curves by the drugs. Following thiopentone there was no significant change of V158. In contrast ther was a highly siginificant fall of VI58 one half hour after fentanyl (p less than 0.01), with progressive return towards control at one, two, and four hours; similar changes were observed after morphine. For each drug, changes of VI70 were substantially greater than corresponding changes of V158. At all times during these recovery measurements, subjects were conscious and co-operative and, by traditional clinical criteria, were judged to have recovered from the effects of the drugs. Differences between high and low responding subjects were assessed by plotting control measurements against values obtained half and one hour after drugs. No systematic differences were found. These findings suggest that delta VI/delta PCO2 is a sensitive indicator of central nervous activity, but do not support the concepts that individuals with low delta VI/delta PCO2 might be more susceptible to the ventilatory depressant effects of anaesthetic drugs, or that low delta VI/delta PCO2 might be associated with delayed return of spontaneous breathing after general anaesthesia. Plasma thiopentone levels at half, one, and four hours were highly reproducible, in contrast to the wide variation of delta VI/delta PCO2 among subjects in this study. These findings together support the notion that wide variation in clinical recovery from anaesthesia may have a primary physiological basis in addition to variation caused by interindividual differences in drug dosage, biotransformation and excretion.
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