Context-sensitive half-times and other decrement times of inhaled anesthetics

Anesth Analg. 1997 Sep;85(3):681-6. doi: 10.1097/00000539-199709000-00036.


The length of anesthetic administration influences the rate at which concentrations of anesthetics decrease after their discontinuation. This is true for both intravenous (I.V.) and inhaled anesthetics. This has been explored in detail for I.V. anesthetics using computer simulation to calculate context-sensitive half-times (the time needed for a 50% decrease in anesthetic concentration) and other decrement times (such as the times needed for 80% or 90% decreases in anesthetic concentration). However, decrement times have not been reported for inhaled anesthetics. In this report, published pharmacokinetic parameters and computer simulation were used to compare the context-sensitive half-times and the 80% and 90% decrement times of the expected central nervous system concentrations for enflurane, isoflurane, sevoflurane, and desflurane. The context-sensitive half-times for all four anesthetics are small (<5 min) and do not increase significantly with increasing duration of anesthesia. The 80% decrement times of both sevoflurane and desflurane are also small (<8 min) and do not increase significantly with duration of anesthesia. However, the 80% decrement times of isoflurane and enflurane increase significantly after approximately 60 min of anesthesia, reaching plateaus of approximately 30 and 35 min. The 90% decrement time of desflurane increased slightly from 5 min after 30 min of anesthesia to 14 min after 6 h of anesthesia. It remained significantly less than the 90% decrement times of sevoflurane, isoflurane, and enflurane, which reached values of 65 min, 86 min, and 100 min, respectively, after 6 h of anesthesia.

Implications: The major differences in the rates at which desflurane, sevoflurane, isoflurane, and enflurane are eliminated occur in the final 20% of the elimination process.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Anesthetics, Inhalation / pharmacokinetics*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Desflurane
  • Enflurane / pharmacokinetics
  • Ethers / pharmacokinetics
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Isoflurane / analogs & derivatives
  • Isoflurane / pharmacokinetics
  • Methyl Ethers*
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Respiration
  • Sevoflurane
  • Time Factors


  • Anesthetics, Inhalation
  • Ethers
  • Methyl Ethers
  • Sevoflurane
  • Enflurane
  • Desflurane
  • Isoflurane