Background: The trigemino-cardiac reflex (TCR) is a well-recognized phenomenon consisting of bradycardia, arterial hypotension, apnea, and gastric hypermotility. It occurs during ocular surgery or other manipulations around the orbit and can also be elicited by stimulation of the central part of the trigeminal nerve during surgery for processes of the cerebellopontine angle. The present retrospective study was conducted to determine if TCR occurs during transsphenoidal surgery in the same way.
Methods: TCR was defined as a drop in mean arterial blood pressure (MABP) and the heart rate (HR) of more than 20% to the baseline values before the stimulus and coinciding with manipulation of the trigeminal nerve. Pre-, intra-, and postoperative HR and MABP were retrospectively reviewed in 117 patients who underwent resection of pituitary adenomas near the trigeminal nerve at the cavernous sinus in the supine position. Tumor invasiveness was classified according to the modified Hardy criteria.
Results: Of the 117 patients with immunohistochemically and/or electromicroscopically proven pituitary adenoma, 12 (10%) patients demonstrated intraoperative evidence of TCR according to the strict inclusion criteria. In these 12 patients, the HR and MABP decreased by a mean of 43 and 54%, respectively, from the preoperative mean levels during microsurgical manipulation near the cavernous sinus and returned to physiological levels within 10 min after cessation of this surgical maneuver. The percentage of invasive adenomas (grade III-IV) was significantly higher in the TCR subgroup than in the non-TCR subgroup (83% versus 22%).
Conclusion: The present results give evidence for the first time that TCR may occur during transsphenoidal surgery in the supine position for resection of pituitary adenomas near the cavernous sinus, leading to a significant decrease in HR and MABP under a standardized anesthetic protocol.