Repetitive transient ischemic depolarizations (IDs) during focal cerebral ischemia are thought to contribute to ischemic damage.Isoflurane and pentobarbital reduce injury (versus the nonanesthetized state) after focal cerebral ischemia. The mechanism by which these drugs reduce injury is not known. This protective effect might be mediated by a reduction in the number of IDs. We measured the frequency of IDs during focal cerebral ischemia in animals anesthetized with isoflurane or pentobarbital and compared it with that in N2 O/fentanyl anesthetized animals and in animals in which the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist MK801 (dizocilpine) was given. Focal cerebral ischemia was induced by the occlusion of the middle cerebral artery for a period of 2 h. Cortical infarct volumes were determined after 3 h of reperfusion by image analysis of 2,3,5-triphenyl tetrazolium-stained coronal brain sections. The infarct volume was significantly greater in the N2 O/fentanyl group than in the other three groups. Infarct volumes in the isoflurane, pentobarbital, and MK801 groups were similar. The frequency of IDs was significantly greater in the N2 O/fentanyl group than in the other three groups, and was the least in the MK801 group. There was a direct correlation between the number of IDs and the volume of tissue injury. The data indicate that the protective effect of isoflurane and pentobarbital might, in part, be determined by their ability to reduce IDs during focal ischemia. However, the observation that the infarct volume was similar in the MK801, isoflurane, and pentobarbital groups, despite a greater frequency of IDs in the latter two groups, suggests that mechanisms other than a simple reduction in the number of IDs probably also play a role in anesthetic-mediated cerebral protection. Implications: Transient ischemic depolarizations during focal ischemia contribute to brain injury. Both isoflurane and pentobarbital reduced the frequency of these depolarizations. Isoflurane- and pentobarbital-mediated reduction in the frequency of depolarizations might, in part, mediate the previously documented neuroprotective effect of these drugs.
(Anesth Analg 1998;86:773-80)