The cerebral and cardiovascular effects of cisatracurium and atracurium in neurosurgical patients

Anesth Analg. 1998 Jan;86(1):123-7. doi: 10.1097/00000539-199801000-00025.


Drugs for neurosurgical patients should not increase intracranial pressure (ICP) or change cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP) and cerebral blood flow. This double-blind, cross-over study compares the effects of a single (3 x effective dose producing 95% twitch depression) intravenous bolus dose of cisatracurium 0.15 mg/kg with atracurium 0.75 mg/kg on mean red blood cell flow velocity in the middle cerebral artery (CBFV; transcranial Doppler), ICP (intraventricular or intraparenchymal monitor), mean arterial pressure (MAP), CPP (MAP-ICP), and heart rate (HR) every minute during a 15-min study period. Included in the study were 14 sedated and ventilated adult neurosurgical patients. After the cisatracurium bolus, ICP, CPP, CBFV, MAP, and HR did not change, and no histamine related events were observed. After the atracurium bolus, ICP, CPP, CBFV, and MAP decreased. The lowest values of ICP (-16% of baseline), CPP (-5%), CBFV (-8%), and MAP (-7%) were recorded 2-4 min after the atracurium bolus injection. After this transient decrease, MAP and CPP returned to baseline, whereas CBFV and ICP transiently exceeded baseline values. The highest values of CBFV (5%) and ICP (17%) were recorded 9-12 min after the atracurium bolus injection. Five patients showed a typical histamine response after atracurium, with a decrease in MAP and flushing. Excluding these five patients eliminated statistical significance in ICP, CPP, CBFV, and MAP differences. In conclusion, cisatracurium demonstrated fewer cerebral and cardiovascular hemodynamic side effects in sedated adult neurosurgical patients.

Implications: This double-blind study in sedated and mechanically ventilated adult neurosurgical patients demonstrates that an intravenous bolus dose of the neuromuscular blocker cisatracurium results in less cerebral (intracranial pressure, cerebral perfusion pressure, middle cerebral artery blood flow velocity) and cardiovascular (blood pressure) hemodynamic side effects, compared with an equipotent dose of atracurium.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Atracurium / analogs & derivatives*
  • Atracurium / pharmacology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects*
  • Hemodynamics / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Pressure / drug effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents / pharmacology*
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Neurosurgery


  • Neuromuscular Blocking Agents
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents
  • Atracurium
  • cisatracurium