Comparative effects of propofol, pentobarbital, and isoflurane on cerebral blood flow and blood volume

Michael M. Todd, Julie Weeks

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87 Scopus citations


While intravenous and volatile anesthetics have widely differing effects on cerebral blood flow (CBF), clinical studies suggest that the relative differences in their effects on intracranial pressure (ICP) may be smaller. Because acute changes in ICP are determined primarily by changes in cerebral blood volume (CBV), we compared the impact of propofol, pentobarbital, and isoflurane on CBF and CBV in rats. Equipotent doses of the three agents were determined by tail-clamp studies. Animals were then anesthetized with propofol (20 mg/kg load, 38 mg · kg-1 · h-1 infusion), pentobarbital (30 mg/kg load, 20 mg · kg-1 · h-1 infusion), or isoflurane 1.6-1.8%. Two hours later, CBF and CBV were measured using 3H-nicotine as a CBF tracer, and 14C-dextran and 99mTc-labeled red cells as markers for cerebral plasma and red blood cell volumes (CPV and CRBCV), respectively. Total CBV was the sum of CPV and CRBCV. CBF was 2.0-2.6 times greater with isoflurane than with propofol or pentobarbital (137 vs. 67 and 52 ml · 100 g-1 · min-1, respectively). By contrast, while CBV was greater in the isoflurane group than in either the propofol or pentobarbital groups, the magnitude of the intergroup differences were much smaller (propofol = 2.49 ± 0.28 ml/100 g; pentobarbital = 2.27 ± 0.15 ml/100 g; isoflurane = 2.77 ± 0.24 ml/100 g, mean ± SD). These results suggest that the simple measurement of CBF may not adequately describe the cerebrovascular effects of an anesthetic, at least with respect to predicting the magnitude of the agents likely effects on ICP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)296-303
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebral blood flow
  • Cerebral blood volume
  • Intracranial pressure
  • Isoflurane
  • Pentobarbital
  • Propofol


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