Laudanosine, an atracurium and cisatracurium metabolite

Eur J Anaesthesiol. 2002 Jul;19(7):466-73. doi: 10.1017/s0265021502000777.


Laudanosine is a metabolite of the neuromuscular-blocking drugs atracurium and cisatracurium with potentially toxic systemic effects. It crosses the blood-brain barrier and may cause excitement and seizure activity. Its interest in recent years has increased because of the recognized interaction with gamma-aminobutyric acid, opioid and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. It has been shown to produce analgesia in animals. In the cardiovascular system, high plasma concentrations produce hypotension and bradycardia. In hepatic failure, its elimination half-life is prolonged but only moderate accumulation occurs in adults, whereas in infants and children plasma concentration are greater. In patients undergoing liver transplantation, laudanosine concentrations are increased during preanhepatic, anhepatic and postanhepatic stages. Patients with renal failure have higher plasma concentrations and a longer mean elimination half-life. In pregnancy, laudanosine crosses the placental barrier. The mean transplacental transfer is 14% of maternal blood concentrations. Except for prolonged administration of atracurium in intensive care units, laudanosine accumulation and related toxicity seem unlikely to be achieved in clinical practice. When cisatracurium is used, plasma concentrations of laudanosine are lower. Further studies are needed, especially around the interactions with gamma-aminobutyric acid, opioid and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atracurium / analogs & derivatives*
  • Atracurium / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isoquinolines / pharmacology*
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents / metabolism*
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents / metabolism*


  • Isoquinolines
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents
  • Atracurium
  • laudanosine
  • cisatracurium