Commercially available bupivacaine is an equimolar mixture of R(+)-and S(-)-bupivacaine. S(-)-bupivacaine (i.e., levobupivacaine) is currently undergoing preclinical evaluation. Cross-over studies with IV levobupivacaine and bupivacaine were conducted in two groups of seven conscious sheep. Doses were chosen to avoid convulsions (smaller dose 6.25-37.5 mg/min) or to be potentially toxic (larger dose 75-200 mg/3 min). In subconvulsive doses, both drugs produced similar time- and dose-dependent depression of left ventricular systolic contractility (dP/dtmax). Convulsions occurred consistently with >or=to75 mg of bupivacaine and >or=to100 mg of levobupivacaine, producing an abrupt reversal of dP/dtmax depression. Subconvulsive doses produced minor cardiovascular effects on heart rate and blood pressure, whereas both were increased by convulsions. Cardiac output and myocardial blood flow were decreased with larger doses of both drugs. Doses >75 mg of bupivacaine or >100 mg of levobupivacaine induced QRS widening and ventricular arrhythmias, but significantly fewer and less deleterious arrhythmias were induced by levobupivacaine. Three animals died after 150, 150, and 200 mg of bupivacaine from the sudden onset of ventricular fibrillation. These doses of levobupivacaine produced nonfatal arrhythmias that automatically returned to sinus rhythm. We conclude that levobupivacaine could offer a greater margin of clinical safety than bupivacaine. Implications: Levobupivacaine comprises 50% of commercially available bupivacaine and is being considered for use in its own right. Local anesthetics can cause toxicity to the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. As a part of a preclinical evaluation of levobupivacaine, this study compared the toxic effects of levobupivacaine and bupivacaine in sheep.
(Anesth Analg 1998;86:797-804)