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Sevoflurane has been shown to protect against myocardial ischemia and reperfusion injury in animals. The present study investigated whether these effects were clinically relevant and would protect left ventricular (LV) function during coronary surgery.Twenty coronary surgery patients were randomly assigned to receive either target-controlled infusion of propofol or inhalational anesthesia with sevoflurane. Except for this, anesthetic and surgical management was the same in all patients. A high-fidelity pressure catheter was positioned in the left ventricle and the left atrium. LV response to increased cardiac load, obtained by leg elevation, was assessed before and after cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB). Effects on contraction were evaluated by analysis of changes in dP/dtmax. Effects on relaxation were assessed by analysis of the load dependence of myocardial relaxation (R = slope of the relation between time constant τ of isovolumic relaxation and end-systolic pressure). Postoperative concentrations of cardiac troponin I were followed during 36 h.Before CPB, leg elevation slightly increased dP/dtmax in the sevoflurane group (5 ± 3%), whereas it remained unchanged in the propofol group (1 ± 6%). After CPB, leg elevation resulted in a decrease in dP/dtmax in the propofol group (−5 ± 4%), whereas the response in the sevoflurane group was comparable to the response before CPB (5 ± 4%). Load dependence of LV pressure fall (R) was similar in both groups before CPB. After CPB, R was increased in the propofol group but not in the sevoflurane group. Troponin I concentrations were significantly lower in the sevoflurane than in the propofol group.Sevoflurane preserved LV function after CPB with less evidence of myocardial damage in the first 36 h postoperatively. These data suggest a cardioprotective effect of sevoflurane during coronary artery surgery.