Background: Four nursing mothers consented to anaesthesia for urgent surgery only on condition that their ability to breast feed would not be impaired.
Methods: Following induction of general anaesthesia with propofol and remifentanil, 65-69% xenon supplemented with remifentanil was used as an inhalational anaesthetic for maintenance.
Results: After finishing surgery the women could be extubated between 2:52 and 7:22 minutes. The women were fully alert just minutes after extubation and spent about 45 minutes in the recovery room before discharge to a regular ward. They resumed regular breast feeding some time later. The propofol concentration in the blood was measured after 0, 30, 90, and 300 minutes and in the milk after 90 and 300 minutes. Just 90 minutes after extubation, the concentration of propofol in the milk was limited (> 3 mg/l) so that pharmacological effects on the babies were excluded after oral intake. Also, no traces of xenon gas were found in the maternal milk at any time. After propofol induction and maintenance of anaesthesia with xenon in combination with a water-soluble short-acting drug like remifentanil, the concentration of propofol in maternal milk is low (> 3 mg/l 90 min after anesthesia) and harmless after oral intake.
Conclusions: These results, as well as the rapid elimination and absence of metabolism of xenon, are of great interest to nursing mothers. General anaesthesia with propofol for induction only, combined with remifentanil and xenon for maintenance, has not yet been described in breast feeding mothers.