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Chapter 5 - Inhalational Anesthetics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 May 2023

Alan David Kaye
Louisiana State University School of Medicine
Richard D. Urman
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston
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Inhalational anesthetics (IAs) are a group of medications utilized, almost exclusively, for the induction and maintenance of anesthesia during surgery. The demonstration of ether anesthesia in 1846 marked the beginning of the use of IAs in clinical practice. Today, modern IAs are used widely, mainly due to their reliability, minimal interindividual variation of the desired pharmacological effect, and the ease of continuous monitoring during anesthesia. Interestingly, the exact mechanism of action of modern IAs is not completely understood. However, recent developments in basic neuropharmacology have elucidated a probable mechanism of action. IAs display unique pharmacokinetics due to the fact that they are gases and are delivered directly to the lungs via the anesthesia machine. Consequently, the interactions of IAs with the body (pharmacokinetics) are very different in comparison to other anesthetics that are administered intravenously. IAs have proven to be instrumental in the modern practice of anesthesia. However, they are not deprived of unwanted adverse effects, some of which can be life-threatening. A deep understanding of these potent drugs and their effects on patients is indispensable for the practice of anesthesiology.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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