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BACKGROUND: The effects of different low-dose volatile agents in blunting the acute hypoxic ventilatory response (AHVR) are variable. Arousal (due to audiovisual stimulation) may prevent isoflurane-induced blunting of AHVR. The purpose of this study was to assess whether this was also the case for halothane. The authors also assessed the effects of pain on the interaction of halothane and AHVR. METHODS: Step decreases in end-tidal partial pressure of oxygen using dynamic end-tidal forcing were performed from normoxia to hypoxia (50 mmHg) in 10 healthy volunteers, with end-tidal partial pressure of carbon dioxide held 1-2 mmHg above normal, in six protocols: (1) control conditions (darkened, quiet room, eyes closed) without halothane and (2) with 0.1 minimum alveolar concentration (MAC) halothane; (3) audiovisual stimulation (bright room, loud television) without halothane and (4) with 0.1 MAC halothane; (5) pain (electrical stimulation of skin over the tibia to produce a visual analog pain score of 5-6 out of 10) without halothane and (6) with 0.1 MAC halothane. The Bispectral Index of the electroencephalogram was also monitored. RESULTS: Halothane did not affect normoxic minute ventilation in any arousal state but significantly reduced the magnitude of AHVR by 50% regardless of the background arousal state (P < 0.001). Bispectral Index values were reduced by halothane only in the absence of arousal (P < 0.003). Both pain and audiovisual stimulation modestly increased normoxic minute ventilation (P < 0.002) and AHVR (P < 0.003). CONCLUSIONS: Audiovisual stimulation does not prevent the blunting of AHVR by low-dose halothane. This result with halothane differs from previous results with isoflurane. Therefore, different anesthetics interact in different ways with arousal states. This finding raises the possibility that different anesthetics might differentially affect the hypoxic chemoreflex loop or that they might act in the brain at sites separate from the chemoreflex loop, differently to influence the wakefulness drive to ventilation.


Journal article



Publication Date





1409 - 1416


Acoustic Stimulation, Acute Disease, Adult, Anesthetics, Inhalation, Arousal, Blood Gas Analysis, Carbon Dioxide, Electroencephalography, Female, Halothane, Humans, Hypoxia, Male, Oxygen, Pain, Photic Stimulation, Respiratory Mechanics