Cerebral ischemic stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability and cognitive dysfunction. The high mortality and disability of cerebral ischemic stroke is urging the health providers, including anesthesiologists and other perioperative professioners, to seek effective protective strategies, which are extremely limited, especially for those perioperative patients. Intriguingly, several commonly used inhalational anesthetics are recently suggested to possess neuroprotective effects against cerebral ischemia. This review introduces multiple paradigms of inhalational anesthetic treatments that have been investigated in the setting of cerebral ischemia, such as preconditioning, proconditioning and postconditioning with a variety of inhalational anesthetics. The pleiotropic mechanisms underlying these inhalational anesthetics-afforded neuroprotection against stroke are also discussed in detail, including the common pathways shared by most of the inhalational anesthetic paradigms, such as anti-excitotoxicity, anti-apoptosis and anti-inflammation. There are also distinct mechanisms involved in specific paradigms, such as preserving blood brain barrier integrity, regulating cerebral blood flow and catecholamine release. The ready availability of these inhalational anesthetics bedside and renders them a potentially translatable stroke therapy attracting great efforts for understanding of the underlying mechanisms.
Keywords: cerebral ischemia; inhalational anesthetics; isoflurane; neuroprotection; postconditioning; preconditioning; proconditioning; sevoflurane.