Caffeine accelerates recovery from general anesthesia

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Mar;111(6):1331-40. doi: 10.1152/jn.00792.2013. Epub 2013 Dec 26.


General anesthetics inhibit neurotransmitter release from both neurons and secretory cells. If inhibition of neurotransmitter release is part of an anesthetic mechanism of action, then drugs that facilitate neurotransmitter release may aid in reversing general anesthesia. Drugs that elevate intracellular cAMP levels are known to facilitate neurotransmitter release. Three cAMP elevating drugs (forskolin, theophylline, and caffeine) were tested; all three drugs reversed the inhibition of neurotransmitter release produced by isoflurane in PC12 cells in vitro. The drugs were tested in isoflurane-anesthetized rats. Animals were injected with either saline or saline containing drug. All three drugs dramatically accelerated recovery from isoflurane anesthesia, but caffeine was most effective. None of the drugs, at the concentrations tested, had significant effects on breathing rates, O2 saturation, heart rate, or blood pressure in anesthetized animals. Caffeine alone was tested on propofol-anesthetized rats where it dramatically accelerated recovery from anesthesia. The ability of caffeine to accelerate recovery from anesthesia for different chemical classes of anesthetics, isoflurane and propofol, opens the possibility that it will do so for all commonly used general anesthetics, although additional studies will be required to determine whether this is in fact the case. Because anesthesia in rodents is thought to be similar to that in humans, these results suggest that caffeine might allow for rapid and uniform emergence from general anesthesia in human patients.

Keywords: cAMP elevating drugs; caffeine; emergence from anesthesia; isoflurane; propofol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia Recovery Period*
  • Anesthesia, General*
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Colforsin / pharmacology
  • Isoflurane / pharmacology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • PC12 Cells
  • Propofol / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Theophylline / pharmacology


  • Anesthetics, Intravenous
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Colforsin
  • Caffeine
  • Theophylline
  • Isoflurane
  • Propofol