Something new is coming to Sketchy... ­čĹÇBe the first to know!

Inhaled anesthetics, dantrolene

No items found.



Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a gaseous anesthetic, while volatile anesthetics like enflurane, isoflurane, and halothane are fluorinated and liquid at room temperature. The solubility of an inhaled anesthetic determines its onset and duration of action. Specifically, less soluble inhaled anesthetics, such as N2O, ensure a quicker onset and faster recovery. Conversely, highly soluble anesthetics like halothane have a more extended onset and longer duration. This distinction stems from their respective blood:gas partition coefficients; a higher coefficient (as seen with halothane) indicates greater solubility and a slower onset, while a lower coefficient (seen with N2O) results in lower solubility and a faster onset. Another crucial concept in understanding inhaled anesthetics is the minimum alveolar concentration (MAC), which represents the anesthetic dose causing 50% of patients to remain unresponsive to painful stimuli. In essence, 1/MAC measures the potency of an inhaled anesthetic.

Inhaled anesthetics are generally well-tolerated, but still carry several risks. They are associated with myocardial and respiratory depression leading to decreased cardiac output and hypotension. Fluorinated anesthetics decrease cerebral vascular resistance, thereby increasing cerebral blood flow. Notably, halothane may lead to hepatotoxicity, while enflurane can be nephrotoxic and induce seizures. Succinylcholine, a depolarizing muscle relaxant and inhaled anesthetic, can cause malignant hyperthermia in patients with a defect in ryanodine receptors (RyR) within the sarcoplasmic reticulum. Faulty RyRs release excess Ca2+, causing significant ATP uptake by the SR and subsequent heat production. This excessive heat generation and ATP consumption leads to muscle damage, such as rhabdomyolysis. Fortunately, dantrolene, a muscle relaxant, can effectively treat malignant hyperthermia by blocking these ryanodine receptors.

Lesson Outline

Don't stop here!

Get access to 133 more Pharmacology lessons & 13 more medical school learning courses with one subscription!

Try 7 Days Free


What is the significance of solubility in inhaled anesthetics?

The solubility of inhaled anesthetics dictates their rate of onset and duration of action in the bloodstream. Highly soluble anesthetics, like halothane, display a gradual onset and protracted action due to their elevated blood:gas partition coefficient. In contrast, anesthetics with lower solubility, such as nitrous oxide, demonstrate swift onset and rapid recovery phases.

How do inhaled anesthetics influence the cardiovascular and respiratory systems?

Inhaled anesthetics may depress myocardial activity, potentially decreasing cardiac output and inducing hypotension. Furthermore, they can cause respiratory depression, resulting in decreased minute ventilation and hypercapnia.

What complications can arise from the use of volatile anesthetics like enflurane and halothane?

Volatile anesthetics, while generally considered safe, have several risks associated with their use. Halothane, for instance, possesses hepatotoxic properties and can lead to severe hepatic damage. Enflurane may have nephrotoxic effects and has been associated with seizure activity. Recognizing these risks is crucial when employing these agents.

What is malignant hyperthermia and how is it related to the use of inhaled anesthetics?

Malignant hyperthermia denotes a grave hypermetabolic reaction triggered by specific agents during general anesthesia, including volatile anesthetics. It stems from an aberration in the ryanodine receptors on the sarcoplasmic reticulum, resulting in an undue calcium surge. This calcium overload prompts substantial ATP consumption and subsequent thermal output and muscle tissue degradation.

What is the role of dantrolene in managing malignant hyperthermia?

Dantrolene serves as the cornerstone therapy for malignant hyperthermia. Its mechanism centers on inhibiting the ryanodine receptors, curtailing the excessive calcium release, and thereby mitigating muscle hyperactivity and excessive heat generation.