Isoflurane for life-threatening bronchospasm: a 15-year single-center experience

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Pediatrics

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; Anesthetics, Inhalation; Bronchial Spasm; Child; Child, Preschool; Female; Humans; Hydrogen-Ion Concentration; Infant; Intensive Care Units, Pediatric; Isoflurane; Linear Models; Male; Respiratory Function Tests; Retrospective Studies; Treatment Outcome; Young Adult


Critical Care | Pediatrics | Respiratory Tract Diseases


BACKGROUND: Children with severe bronchospasm requiring mechanical ventilation may become refractory to conventional therapy. In these critically ill patients, isoflurane is an inhaled anesthetic agent available in some centers to treat bronchospasm. We hypothesized that isoflurane is safe and would lead to improved gas exchange in children with life-threatening bronchospasm refractory to conventional therapy.

METHODS: A retrospective review was conducted and included mechanically ventilated children treated with isoflurane in a quaternary pediatric ICU for life-threatening bronchospasm, from 1993 to 2007. Demographic, blood gas, ventilator, and outcome data were collected.

RESULTS: Thirty-one patients, with a mean age of 9.5 years (range 0.4-23 years) were treated with isoflurane, from 1993 to 2007. Mean time to initiation of isoflurane after intubation was 13 hours (0-120 h), and the mean maximum isoflurane dose was 1.1% (0.3-2.5%). Mean duration of isoflurane administration was 54.5 hours (range 1-181 h), with a total mean duration of mechanical ventilation of 252 hours (range 16-1,444 h). Isoflurane led to significant improvement in pH and P(CO(2)) within 4 hours of initiation (P ≤ .001). Complications during isoflurane administration included hypotension requiring vasoactive infusions in 24 (77%), arrhythmia in 3 (10%), neurologic side effects in 3 (10%), and pneumothorax in 1 (3%) patient.

CONCLUSIONS: Isoflurane led to improvement in pH and P(CO(2)) within 4 hours in this series of mechanically ventilated patients with life-threatening bronchospasm. The majority of patients in this series developed hypotension, but there was a low incidence of other side effects related to isoflurane administration. Isoflurane appears to be an effective therapy in patients with life-threatening bronchospasm refractory to conventional therapy. However, further investigation is warranted, given the uncertain overall impact of isoflurane in this context.

DOI of Published Version



Respir Care. 2012 Nov;57(11):1857-64. doi: 10.4187/respcare.01605. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Respiratory care

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID