European Journal of Anaesthesiology

Original Article

Adsorption of sufentanil to epidural filters and catheters

M. Westphal a1c1, H. Hohage a2, H. Buerkle a1, H. Van Aken a1, T. Ermert a1 and and G. Brodner a1
a1 University of Münster, Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care, Münster, Germany
a2 University of Münster, Department of Internal Medicine, Münster, Germany

Article author query
westphal m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
hohage h   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
buerkle h   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
aken hv   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
ermert t   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
brodner g   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background and objective: Stable drug concentrations must be administered to provide adequate patient-controlled epidural analgesia. This study investigated the stability of sufentanil after the epidural delivery system had been flushed with solutions containing the drug.

Methods: Sufentanil citrate, 5 μg mL−1 was injected through an epidural catheter system into a glass container. The concentrations of the drug leaving the system, in 1 mL aliquots (1–5 mL) were measured using high-performance liquid chromatography. In the same manner, sufentanil samples were analysed after flushing the filter, as well as after priming the filter and catheter.

Results: ANOVA for repeated measurements demonstrated that sufentanil concentrations remained constant as long as the catheter had been adequately flushed. However, the concentration of sufentanil in the solution exiting the filter was reduced significantly. Hardly any sufentanil could be detected (0.09 ± 0.01 μg mL−1, P < 0.001) in the first 1 mL aliquot (probe) leaving the filter. Altogether, 3 mL sufentanil solution was needed to pass through the filter before the baseline values were restored (P < 0.05). The greatest decrease occurred when the whole epidural delivery apparatus (catheter and filter) was primed; to regain baseline values, as much as 4 mL solution was needed to flush the system.

Conclusions: Sufentanil citrate is adsorbed by the materials used to manufacture systems (catheters, filters) used in epidural anaesthesia. Hence, the epidural catheter system should be primed with sufentanil before connecting it to the patient so as to deliver reliable concentrations.

(Accepted March 2002)

Key Words: ANALGESIA, epidural; ANALGESICS, opioid, sufentanil; CHEMISTRY, PHYSICAL, adsorption.

c1 Correspondence to: M. Westphal, Klinik und Poliklinik für Anästhesiologie und operative Intensivmedizin, Universitätsklinikum Münster, Albert-Schweitzer-Strasse 33, D-48149 Münster, Germany. E-mail:; Tel: +49 0251 83 47255; Fax: +49 0251 83 48667