Neurotoxicity of anesthetic drugs: an update

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Abstract

Purpose of review

This article reviews the most recently published evidence that investigated anesthesia-induced neurotoxicity in both animals and humans, especially as it pertains to the perinatal period.

Recent findings

Several recent studies have focused on better understanding the complex mechanisms that underlie intravenous and volatile anesthesia-induced neurotoxicity in animals. Adjuvant agents that target these pathways have been investigated for their effectiveness in attenuating the neuroapoptosis and neurocognitive deficits that result from anesthesia exposure, including dexmedetomidine, rutin, vitamin C, tumor necrosis factor α, lithium, apocynin, carreic acid phenethyl ester. Five clinical studies, including one randomized control trial, provided inconsistent evidence on anesthesia-induced neurotoxicity in humans.

Summary

Despite a growing body of preclinical studies that have demonstrated anesthesia-induced neurotoxic effects in the developing and aging brain, their effects on the human brain remains to be determined. The performance of large-scale human studies is limited by several important factors, and noninvasive biomarkers and neuroimaging modalities should be employed to define the injury phenotypes that reflect anesthesia-induced neurotoxicity. Ultimately, the use of these modalities may provide new insights into whether the concerns of anesthetics are justified in humans.

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