Investigation of Slow-wave Activity Saturation during Surgical Anesthesia Reveals a Signature of Neural Inertia in Humans

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Abstract

Background:

Previously, we showed experimentally that saturation of slow-wave activity provides a potentially individualized neurophysiologic endpoint for perception loss during anesthesia. Furthermore, it is clear that induction and emergence from anesthesia are not symmetrically reversible processes. The observed hysteresis is potentially underpinned by a neural inertia mechanism as proposed in animal studies.

Methods:

In an advanced secondary analysis of 393 individual electroencephalographic data sets, we used slow-wave activity dose-response relationships to parameterize slow-wave activity saturation during induction and emergence from surgical anesthesia. We determined whether neural inertia exists in humans by comparing slow-wave activity dose responses on induction and emergence.

Results:

Slow-wave activity saturation occurs for different anesthetics and when opioids and muscle relaxants are used during surgery. There was wide interpatient variability in the hypnotic concentrations required to achieve slow-wave activity saturation. Age negatively correlated with power at slow-wave activity saturation. On emergence, we observed abrupt decreases in slow-wave activity dose responses coincident with recovery of behavioral responsiveness in ~33% individuals. These patients are more likely to have lower power at slow-wave activity saturation, be older, and suffer from short-term confusion on emergence.

Conclusions:

Slow-wave activity saturation during surgical anesthesia implies that large variability in dosing is required to achieve a targeted potential loss of perception in individual patients. A signature for neural inertia in humans is the maintenance of slow-wave activity even in the presence of very-low hypnotic concentrations during emergence from anesthesia.

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