Nifedipine and Intraoperative Core Body Temperature in Humans

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Initial anesthetic-induced hypothermia results largely from core-to-peripheral redistribution of heat. Nifedipine administration may minimize hypothermia by inducing vasodilation well before induction of anesthesia. Although vasodilation would redistribute heat to peripheral tissues, thermoregulatory responses would maintain core temperature. After equilibration, the patient would be left vasodilated, with a small core-to-peripheral temperature gradient. Minimal redistribution hypothermia may accompany subsequent induction of anesthesia, because heat flow requires a temperature gradient. In contrast, similar vasodilation concurrent with anesthetic-induced vasodilation may augment redistribution hypothermia. Accordingly, the authors tested the hypothesis that nifedipine treatment for 12 h before surgery would minimize intraoperative redistribution hypothermia, whereas nifedipine treatment immediately before induction of anesthesia would aggravate hypothermia.


Patients undergoing hip arthroplasty were randomly assigned to: (1) 20 mg long-acting nifedipine orally 12 h before surgery, and 10 mg sublingually 1.5 h before surgery (n = 10); (2) nifedipine 10 mg sublingually just before induction of anesthesia (n = 10); and (3) no nifedipine (control, n = 10). Anesthesia was maintained with isoflurane and 60% nitrous oxide. Administered intravenous fluids were heated, but the patients were not otherwise actively warmed.


Core temperature decreased 0.8° C in the first hour of surgery in the patients given nifedipine the night before and the morning of surgery, which was significantly less than in the control group (1.7° C in the first hour). In contrast, core temperature decreased 2.0° C in the first hour of surgery in the patients given nifedipine immediately before induction of anesthesia. During the subsequent 70–130 min of anesthesia, core temperature decreased at roughly comparable rates in each group. After 130 min of anesthesia, core temperature in the two nifedipine-treated groups differed by 1.6° C, and the temperatures in all three groups differed significantly.


Vasodilation induced by nifedipine well before induction of anesthesia minimized redistribution hypothermia, presumably by decreasing the core-to-peripheral tissue temperature gradient. In contrast, redistribution hypothermia was aggravated by administration of the same drug immediately before induction of anesthesia. Drug-induced modulation of vascular tone thus produces clinically important alterations in intraoperative core temperature.

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