Accuracy of pharmacokinetic models for predicting plasma fentanyl concentrations in lean and obese surgical patients: derivation of dosing weight ("pharmacokinetic mass")

Anesthesiology. 2004 Sep;101(3):603-13. doi: 10.1097/00000542-200409000-00008.


Background: The currently available pharmacokinetic models for fentanyl were derived from normal weight patients and were not scaled to body weight. Their application to obese patients may cause overprediction of the plasma concentration of fentanyl. This study examined the influence of body weight on the predictive accuracy of two models (Anesthesiology 1990; 73:1091-102 and J Pharmacol Exp Ther 1987; 240:159-66). Further, we attempted to derive suggested dosing mass weights for fentanyl that improved predicted accuracy.

Method: Seventy patients undergoing major elective surgery with total body weight (TBW) <85 kg and body mass index <30 (Group L) and 39 patients with TBW >/=85 kg and body mass index >30 (Group O) were studied. In Group L and Group O, the mean TBW was 69 kg, and 125 kg, respectively and the mean body mass index in Group L and Group O was 24 and 44, respectively. Fentanyl infusion was used during surgery and postoperatively for analgesia. Plasma fentanyl concentrations were measured and predicted concentrations were obtained by computer simulation; 465 pairs of measured and predicted values were obtained.

Results: The influence of TBW on the performance errors of the original two models was examined with nonlinear regression analysis. Shafer error versus TBW showed a highly significant negative relationship (R squared = 0.689, P < 0.001); i.e., the Shafer model systematically overestimated fentanyl concentration as weight increased. The Scott and Stanski model showed greater variation (R squared = 0.303). We used the exponential equation for Shafer performance error versus TBW to derive suggested dosing weights ("pharmacokinetic mass") for obese patients. The pharmacokinetic mass versus TBW curve was essentially linear below 100 kg (with slope of 0.65) and approached a plateau above 140 kg. For patients weighing 140 to 200 kg, dosing weights of 100-108 kg are projected. Total body clearance (ml/min) showed a strong linear correlation with pharmacokinetic mass (r = 0.793; P < 0.001), whereas the relationship with TBW was nonlinear.

Conclusion: Actual body weight overestimates fentanyl dose requirements in obese patients. Dosing weight (pharmacokinetic mass) derived from the nonlinear relationship between prediction error and TBW proved to have a linear relationship with clearance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anesthesia, Intravenous
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / blood
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / pharmacokinetics*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Surface Area
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Female
  • Fentanyl / blood
  • Fentanyl / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Predictive Value of Tests


  • Anesthetics, Intravenous
  • Fentanyl