Anesthetic technique and cancer outcomes: a meta-analysis of total intravenous versus volatile anesthesia

Can J Anaesth. 2019 May;66(5):546-561. doi: 10.1007/s12630-019-01330-x. Epub 2019 Mar 4.


Purpose: Cancer-related mortality, a leading cause of death worldwide, is often the result of metastatic disease recurrence. Anesthetic techniques have varying effects on innate and cellular immunity, activation of adrenergic-inflammatory pathways, and activation of cancer-promoting cellular signaling pathways; these effects may translate into an influence of anesthetic technique on long-term cancer outcomes. To further analyze the effects of propofol (intravenous) and volatile (inhalational gas) anesthesia on cancer recurrence and survival, we undertook a systematic review with meta-analysis.

Source: Databases were searched up to 14 November 2018. Comparative studies examining the effect of inhalational volatile anesthesia and propofol-based total intravenous anesthesia (TIVA) on cancer outcomes were included. The Newcastle Ottawa Scale (NOS) was used to assess methodological quality and bias. Reported hazard ratios (HRs) were pooled and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) calculated.

Principal findings: Ten studies were included; six studies examined the effect of anesthetic agent type on recurrence-free survival following breast, esophageal, and non-small cell lung cancer (n = 7,866). The use of TIVA was associated with improved recurrence-free survival in all cancer types (pooled HR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.65 to 0.94; P < 0.01). Eight studies (n = 18,778) explored the effect of anesthetic agent type on overall survival, with TIVA use associated with improved overall survival (pooled HR, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.63 to 0.92; P < 0.01).

Conclusion: This meta-analysis suggests that propofol-TIVA use may be associated with improved recurrence-free survival and overall survival in patients having cancer surgery. This is especially evident where major cancer surgery was undertaken. Nevertheless, given the inherent limitations of studies included in this meta-analysis these findings necessitate prospective randomized trials to guide clinical practice.

Trial registration: PROSPERO (CRD42018081478); registered 8 October, 2018.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Inhalation / methods
  • Anesthesia, Intravenous / methods
  • Anesthetics, Inhalation / administration & dosage*
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous / administration & dosage*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Propofol / administration & dosage
  • Survival Rate


  • Anesthetics, Inhalation
  • Anesthetics, Intravenous
  • Propofol