Suppression of Spinal Cord Motoneuron Excitability Correlates with Surgical Immobility during Isoflurane Anesthesia

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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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