The nonlinear responses of cerebral metabolism to low concentrations of halothane, enflurane, isoflurane, and thiopental

Anesthesiology. 1977 Jan;46(1):28-34. doi: 10.1097/00000542-197701000-00007.


The relationship between cerebral oxygen consumption (CMRO2) and anesthetic concentration has been assumed (based upon isolated measurements) to be approximately linear at concentrations less than 1 MAC. The shapes of the anesthetic dose-response curves for both CMRO2 and cerebral blood flow (CBF) were examined by multiple measurements made at small, progressive concentration increments from 0 to 2 MAC halothane (six dogs), enflurane (six dogs), and isoflurane (six dogs), and during a constant 23 mg/kg/hr infusion of thiopental (six dogs). The EEG was continuously recorded and changes in EEG patterns from "awake" to "anesthetic" were correlated with changes in anesthetic concentration, CBF, and CMRO2. The significance of changes in the slopes of regression lines for CMRO2 before, during and after changes in EEG patterns from "awake" to "anesthetic" were then determined. Contrary to previous inferences, CMRO2 dose-response curves were found to be nonlinear at anesthetic concentrations less than 1 MAC for all anesthetics studied. CMRO2 decreased precipitously until a stable "anesthetic" pattern was observed on the EEG; thereafter, CMRO2 decreased at a markedly reduced rate. The onset of this change occurred at concentrations well below MAC for the inhalational anesthetics. With the thiopental infusion, CMRO2 decreased most rapidly during the first 25 minutes. With halothane and enflurane, CBF was maximal during the period of transition in the EEG from an "awake" to an "anesthetic" pattern. CBF was elevated at all concentrations of isoflurane studied. CBF decreased rapidly during thiopental infusion until the EEG pattern changed from "awake" to "anesthetic" and then more slowly. The results demonstrate that the change in the EEG to an "anesthetic" pattern, which occurs at concentrations well below MAC, is accompanied by an abrupt metabolic depression. It is speculated that these events coincide with the onset of functional depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects
  • Depression, Chemical
  • Dogs
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enflurane / blood
  • Enflurane / pharmacology*
  • Halothane / blood
  • Halothane / pharmacology*
  • Isoflurane / blood
  • Isoflurane / pharmacology*
  • Methyl Ethers / pharmacology*
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Thiopental / blood
  • Thiopental / pharmacology*


  • Methyl Ethers
  • Enflurane
  • Isoflurane
  • Thiopental
  • Halothane