Positron emission tomography study of regional cerebral metabolism in humans during isoflurane anesthesia

Anesthesiology. 1997 Mar;86(3):549-57. doi: 10.1097/00000542-199703000-00006.


Background: Although the anesthetic effects of the intravenous anesthetic agent propofol have been studied in the living human brain using brain imaging technology, the nature of the anesthetic state evident in the human brain during inhalational anesthesia remains unknown. To examine this issue, the authors studied the effects of isoflurane anesthesia on human cerebral glucose metabolism using positron emission tomography (PET).

Methods: Five volunteers each underwent two PET scans; one scan assessed awake-baseline metabolism and the other scan assessed metabolism during isoflurane anesthesia titrated to the point of unresponsiveness (means +/- SD; expired = 0.5 +/- 0.1%). Scans were obtained with a GE2048 scanner (4.5-mm resolution-FWHM) using the 18fluorodeoxyglucose technique.

Results: Awake whole-brain glucose metabolism averaged 6.9 +/- 1.5 mg.100 g-1.min-1 (means +/- SD). Isoflurane reduced whole-brain metabolism 46 +/- 11% to 3.6 +/- 0.3 mg.100 g-1.min-1 (P < or = 0.005). Regional metabolism decreased fairly uniformly throughout the brain, and no evidence of any regional metabolic increases were found in any brain region for any participant. A region-of-interest analysis showed that the pattern of regional metabolism evident during isoflurane anesthesia was not significantly different from that seen when participants were awake.

Conclusion: These data clarify that the anesthetic state evident in the living human brain during unresponsiveness induced with isoflurane is associated with a global, fairly uniform, whole-brain glucose metabolic reduction of 46 +/- 11%.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anesthesia, Inhalation / methods*
  • Anesthetics, Inhalation / pharmacology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Consciousness
  • Depression, Chemical
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Isoflurane / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Anesthetics, Inhalation
  • Isoflurane
  • Glucose