Women Emerge from General Anesthesia with Propofol/Alfentanil/Nitrous Oxide Faster than Men

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Abstract

Background

Recovery from general anesthesia is governed by pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic factors. Gender has not previously been recognized as a factor influencing the time to emergence from general anesthesia.

Methods

This multicenter study was originally designed to measure the effects of the bispectral index on intraoperative anesthetic management and patient recovery. We compared the wake-up and recovery times of 274 adults after propofol/alfentanil/nitrous oxide anesthesia. Patients were randomly assigned to have the titration of propofol performed with or without the use of bispectral index monitoring. Specific guidelines were given for the titration of drugs. The aim in all cases was to provide a safe anesthetic with the fastest possible recovery.

Results

There was a significant reduction in propofol dose, time to eye opening, and response to verbal command when the anesthetic was titrated using the bispectral index. Unexpectedly, gender proved to be a highly significant independent predictor for recovery time. Women woke significantly faster than men: the time from end of anesthesia to eye opening was 7.05 versus 11.22 min, P < 0.05, and response to verbal command was 8.12 versus 11.67 min, P < 0.05. These differences were significant at all four study sites and in each treatment group. Men consistently had prolonged recovery times compared to women, P < 0.001. There was no difference in the dose of anesthetic used between gender.

Conclusions

Gender appears to be an important variable in recovery from general anesthesia. These findings may explain the increased reported incidence of awareness in women (three times more frequent) and support the need to include gender as a variable in pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic studies of anesthetic drugs.

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