Does epidural anesthesia have general anesthetic effects? A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

Anesthesiology. 1999 Dec;91(6):1687-92. doi: 10.1097/00000542-199912000-00021.


Background: Clinically, patients require surprisingly low end-tidal concentrations of volatile agents during combined epidural-general anesthesia. Neuraxial anesthesia exhibits sedative properties that may reduce requirements for general anesthesia. The authors tested whether epidural lidocaine reduces volatile anesthetic requirements as measured by the minimum alveolar concentration (MAC) of sevoflurane for noxious testing cephalad to the sensory block.

Methods: In a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 44 patients received 300 mg epidural lidocaine (group E), epidural saline control (group C), or epidural saline-intravenous lidocaine infusion (group I) after premedication with 0.02 mg/kg midazolam and 1 microg/kg fentanyl. Tracheal intubation followed standard induction with 4 mg/kg thiopental and succinylcholine 1 mg/kg. After 10 min or more of stable end-tidal sevoflurane, 10 s of 50 Hz, 60 mA tetanic electrical stimulation were applied to the fifth cervical dermatome. Predetermined end-tidal sevoflurane concentrations and the MAC for each group were determined by the up-and-down method and probit analysis based on patient movement.

Results: MAC of sevoflurane for group E, 0.52+/-0.18% (+/- 95% confidence interval [CI]), differed significantly from group C, 1.18+/-0.18% (P < 0.0005), and from group I, 1.04+/-0.18% (P < 0.001). The plasma lidocaine levels in groups E and I were comparable (2.3+/-1.0 vs. 3.0+/-1.2 microg/ml +/- SD).

Conclusions: Lidocaine epidural anesthesia reduced the MAC of sevoflurane by approximately 50%. This MAC sparing is most likely caused by indirect central effects of spinal deafferentation and not to systemic effects of lidocaine or direct neural blockade. Thus, lower concentrations of volatile agents than those based on standard MAC values may be adequate during combined epidural-general anesthesia.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anesthesia, Epidural*
  • Anesthesia, General*
  • Anesthetics, Inhalation / administration & dosage
  • Anesthetics, Inhalation / pharmacokinetics
  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lidocaine
  • Male
  • Methyl Ethers / administration & dosage
  • Methyl Ethers / pharmacokinetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Block
  • Pain Measurement / drug effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism
  • Sevoflurane


  • Anesthetics, Inhalation
  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Methyl Ethers
  • Sevoflurane
  • Lidocaine