Background and objective: Remifentanil has a short duration of action and constant elimination, which allow administration of high doses, without prolonging recovery. Remifentanil has been compared to alfentanil, as part of a total intravenous anaesthetic technique, where remifentanil provided better anaesthetic conditions than alfentanil, without adverse effect on recovery. However, these results were obtained during anaesthesia involving neuromuscular blockade, which may mask both signs of insufficient anaesthesia and side-effects such as muscle rigidity. The aim of this study was to compare remifentanil with alfentanil for anaesthesia without neuromuscular blockade.
Methods: We performed a prospective, randomized, double-blind, four-centre study to compare remifentanil infusion 15 μg kg−1 h−1 and alfentanil infusion 60 μg kg−1 h−1, using a total intravenous technique for non-paralysed patients, and the laryngeal mask airway for airway management. We enrolled 192 patients, 18–65 yr of age with ASA I–II, undergoing minor surgery. The primary endpoint was the number of patients having pre-defined responses to surgical stimulation. A number of secondary criteria was evaluated to assess undesirable properties of the procedures.
Results: In the alfentanil group, 85% of patients responded to surgical stimulation, vs. 35% in the remifentanil group (P < 0.0001). No difference was found in recovery data, or in any other parameter than those related to insufficient anaesthesia.
Conclusions: The remifentanil-based technique provided significantly better anaesthetic conditions than the alfentanil-based technique in the setting of this study, without causing any significant adverse effects.