The postoperative adverse effects of inhalational anesthetics

Heart Lung. 1986 Jan;15(1):63-9.


Inhalational general anesthetics can contribute to postoperative morbidity (Table II). Postoperative effects of inhalational anesthetics on the central nervous system are speculative. The "toxic" effects of these agents during the postoperative period are most often an extension of their pharmacologic and physiochemical properties. Inhalational anesthetics may produce a number of varied changes in mental status after surgery such as headache, emergence excitement, and delirium. It is very important for health professionals to be aware of the risk of perioperative myocardial infarction in patients with preexisting heart disease if early detection and treatment are to occur. Relative to the common postoperative problems of atelectasis, pneumonia, and aspiration, inhalational agents may have a contributory role especially in patients with preexisting pulmonary disease. Postoperative nausea and vomiting are other common problems in which inhalational agents may have a role in their development. Although extensively investigated, suspected halothane hepatoxicity is a very rare complication if it exists at all. The renal effects of inhalational anesthetics are usually mild and transitory, although the use of methoxyflurane can produce direct nephrotoxicity. The evidence to support a clinically significant direct immunosuppressant effect of inhalational anesthetics after surgery is inconclusive. A concensus exists that any minor, short-lived effects are in all probability overshadowed by the nonspecific stress of surgery itself. By reducing this stress, anesthetics undoubtedly have a protective effect. There are probably no major mutagenic or carcinogenic effects of inhalational anesthetics under normal conditions. Inhalational anesthetics should be avoided during pregnancy because of their teratogenic potential and their effects on the uterus.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Inhalation / adverse effects*
  • Anesthetics / adverse effects*
  • Anesthetics / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / drug effects
  • Kidney / drug effects
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced
  • Leukocytes / drug effects
  • Myocardial Infarction / chemically induced
  • Nausea / chemically induced
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / chemically induced
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Vomiting / chemically induced


  • Anesthetics