Ten-year experience with standardized non-operating room anesthesia with Sevoflurane for MRI in children affected by neuropsychiatric disorders

BMC Anesthesiol. 2019 Dec 18;19(1):235. doi: 10.1186/s12871-019-0897-1.


Background: Children require anesthesia for MRI to maintain immobility and reduce discomfort; clear indications about the best anesthesiologic management are lacking and each center developed its own protocol. Moreover, children with neuropsychiatric disorders more likely require sedation and are described in literature as more prone to general and respiratory complications. Aim of this study was to analyze the applicability of a sevoflurane-based approach, to describe general and respiratory complications and to identify risk factors in a pediatric neuropsychiatric population.

Methods: Retrospective cohort study, university Hospital (January 2007-December 2016). All the 1469 anesthesiologic records of children addressed from Neuropsychiatric Unit to undergo MRI under general anesthesia were analyzed; 12 patients equal or older than 18-year-old were excluded. We identified post-hoc nine macro-categories: static encephalopathies, metabolic/evolutive encephalopathies, epileptic encephalopathies, neuromuscular diseases, autistic spectrum disorders, migraine, psychiatric disorders, intellectual disabilities, others. A logistic regression model for events with low frequency (Firth's penalized likelihood approach) was carried out to identify the mutually adjusted effect among endpoints (complications) and the independent variables chosen on the basis of statistical significance (univariate analysis, p ≤ 0.05) and clinical judgment.

Results: Of 1457 anesthesiologic records (age 4.0 (IQR 2.0 to 7.0) year-old, males 891 (61.2%), weight 17.0 (IQR 12.0 to 24.9) kg), 18 were cancelled for high anesthesiologic risk, 50 were cooperative, 1389 were anesthetized. A sevoflurane-based anesthesia was feasible in 92.3%; these patients required significantly less mechanical ventilation (8.6 vs. 16.2%; p = 0.012). Complications' rate was low (6.2%; 3.1% respiratory). The risk for general complications increases with ASA score > 1 (OR 2.22, 95 CI% 1.30 to 3.77, p = 0.003), male sex (OR 1.73, 95% CI 1.07 to 2.81, p = 0.025), multi-drug anesthesia (OR 2.98, 95 CI% 1.26 to 7.06, p = 0.013). For respiratory complications, it increases with ASA score > 1 (OR 2.34, 95 CI% 1.19 to 4.73, p = 0.017), autumn-winter (OR 2.01, 95 CI% 1.06 to 3.78, p = 0.030), neuromuscular disorders (OR 3.18, 95 CI% 1.20 to 8.41, p = 0.020). We had no major complications compromising patients' outcome or requiring admission to ICU.

Conclusions: Sevoflurane anesthesia is feasible and safe for children affected by neuropsychiatric disorders undergoing MRI. Specific risk factors for general and respiratory complications should be considered.

Keywords: MRI sedation; NORA; Neuropsychiatric disorders anesthesia; Non-operating room anesthesia; Sevoflurane.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Inhalation / administration & dosage
  • Anesthetics, Inhalation / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sevoflurane / administration & dosage*
  • Sevoflurane / adverse effects


  • Anesthetics, Inhalation
  • Sevoflurane