[Measurement of the depth of anaesthesia]

G N Schmidt, J Müller, P Bischoff
Der Anaesthesist 2008, 57 (1): 9-30, 32-6
One of the most important mandates of the anaesthesiologist is to control the depth of anaesthesia. An unsolved problem is that a straight definition of the depth of anaesthesia does not exist. Concerning this it is rational to separate hypnosis from analgesia, from muscle relaxation and from block of cardiovascular reactions. Clinical surrogate parameters such as blood pressure and heart rate are not well-suited for a valid statement about the depth of hypnosis. To answer this question the brain has become the focus of interest as the target of anaesthesia. It is possible to visualize the brain's electrical activity from anelectroencephalogram (EEG). The validity of the spontaneous EEG as an anesthetic depth monitor is limited by the multiphasic activity, especially when anaesthesia is induced (excitation) and in deep anaesthesia (burst suppression). Recently, various commercial monitoring systems have been introduced to solve this problem. These monitoring systems use different interpretations of the EEG or auditory-evoked potentials (AEP). These derived and calculated variables have no pure physiological basis. For that reason a profound knowledge of the algorithms and a validation of the monitoring systems is an indispensable prerequisite prior to their routine clinical use. For the currently available monitoring systems various studies have been reported. At this time it is important to know that the actual available monitors can only value the sedation and not the other components of anaesthesia. For example, they cannot predict if a patient will react to a painful stimulus or not. In the future it would be desirable to develop parameters which allow an estimate of the other components of anaesthesia in addition to the presently available monitoring systems to estimate sedation and muscle relaxation. These could be sensoric-evoked potentials to estimate analgesia and AEPs for the detection of awareness.

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