Therapeutic applications and uses of inhalational anesthesia in the pediatric intensive care unit

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2008 Mar;9(2):169-79. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0b013e31816688ef.


Objective: To review the physical properties, end-organ effects, therapeutic applications, and delivery techniques of inhalational anesthetic agents in the pediatric intensive care unit.

Data source: A computerized, bibliographic search regarding intensive care unit applications of inhalational anesthetic agents.

Main results: Although the end-organ effects of inhalational anesthetic agents vary depending on the agent, general effects include a dose-related depression of ventilatory and cardiovascular function. With increasing anesthetic depth, there is a decrease in alveolar ventilation with a reduction in tidal volume and an increase in PaCO2 in spontaneously breathing patients. The potent inhalational anesthetic agents decrease mean arterial pressure and myocardial contractility. The decrease in mean arterial pressure reduces renal and hepatic blood flow. Secondary effects on end-organ function may result from the metabolism of these agents and the release of inorganic fluoride. Beneficial effects include sedation, amnesia, and anxiolysis, making these agents effective for sedation during mechanical ventilation. Bronchodilatory and anticonvulsant properties have led to their use as therapeutic agents in patients with refractory status asthmaticus and epilepticus. Issues regarding their delivery in the intensive care unit include equipment for their delivery, scavenging, and monitoring.

Conclusions: The literature contains reports of the therapeutic use of the potent inhalational anesthetic agents in the pediatric intensive care unit. Potential applications include sedation during mechanical ventilation as well as therapeutic use for the treatment of status asthmaticus and epilepticus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Inhalation* / methods
  • Anesthetics / administration & dosage
  • Anesthetics / chemistry
  • Anesthetics / metabolism
  • Anesthetics / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*


  • Anesthetics