Background: Although supplemental fentanyl has been widely used to blunt the hemodynamic responses to laryngoscopic intubation, its residual vagotonic effect may increase the risk of reflex bradycardia. We compared the incidence and severity of significant reflex bradycardia after a bolus injection of equivalent doses of fentanyl and remifentanil (control drug).
Methods: In this prospective, randomized, double-blind study, 220 adult patients undergoing major abdominal surgery were randomly assigned to receive fentanyl (1.5 µg/kg) or remifentanil (1.5 µg/kg). No anticholinergic prophylaxis was administered. Symptomatic reflex bradycardia was defined as a sudden decrease in heart rate to < 50 beats per minute (bpm) or to 50-59 bpm associated with a systolic arterial pressure < 70 mmHg in connection with surgical maneuvers. If bradycardia or hypotension developed, atropine or ephedrine was administered following a predefined treatment protocol.
Results: In total, 188 subjects (remifentanil, 95; fentanyl, 93) were included. The proportion of subjects with symptomatic reflex bradycardia in the fentanyl group was similar to that in the remifentanil group (30.1% vs. 28.4%, respectively). Atropine and/or ephedrine were needed similarly in both groups. The differences between the group of 55 patients who presented with symptomatic reflex bradycardia were not statistically significant with respect to the lowest heart rate, anesthetic depth-related data (bispectral index and end-tidal sevoflurane concentration), or the proportion of causative surgical maneuvers.
Conclusions: Fentanyl (1.5 µg/kg) administered intravenously during anesthetic induction is unlikely to increase the incidence and severity of significant reflex bradycardia in patients undergoing major abdominal surgery.
Keywords: Bradycardia; Fentanyl; Reflex; Surgical procedures.