European Journal of Anaesthesiology

Original Article
(RD) Surgery

Effects of induction of anaesthesia with sufentanil and positive-pressure ventilation on the intra- to extrathoracic volume distribution

T. von Spiegel a1c1, S. Giannaris a1, B. Schorn a2, M. Scholz a1, G. J. K. Wietasch a1 and A. Hoeft a1
a1 University of Bonn, Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Bonn, Germany
a2 Kreiskrankenhaus, Luedenscheid, University of Bonn, Department of Thoracic and Vascular Surgery, Luedenscheid, Germany

Article author query
von spiegel t   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
giannaris s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
schorn b   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
scholz m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
wietasch gjk   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
hoeft a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background and objective: Induction of general anaesthesia in combination with positive-pressure ventilation is often associated with a significant decrease of arterial pressure. A decreased preload may contribute to this phenomenon. The aim was to investigate whether a change in cardiac filling occurs following the induction of general anaesthesia with sufentanil under typical clinical conditions.

Methods: Fifteen patients scheduled for elective coronary bypass grafting were studied immediately before surgery. In addition to standard monitors, a transpulmonary double-indicator dilution technique measured in vivo intrathoracic blood volume, global end-diastolic volume and total circulating blood volume. For induction of anaesthesia 2 μg kg−1 sufentanil was given. Measurements were performed awake and after the induction of anaesthesia, intubation and mechanical ventilation of the lungs.

Results: To maintain arterial pressure during the induction period within −20% of baseline pressure, on average 22 ± 6 mL kg−1 crystalloids and 8 ± 6 mL kg−1 colloids were given. Despite these amounts of fluid, cardiac filling was decreased, whereas circulating blood volume increased significantly. Both central venous pressure and pulmonary capillary wedge pressure increased.

Conclusions: Induction of general anaesthesia with positive-pressure ventilation is regularly associated with a blood volume shift from intra- to extrathoracic compartments. Even in low-dose opioid monoanaesthesia with sufentanil – often regarded as relatively inert in haemodynamic terms – the phenomenon could be demonstrated as the primary cause of the often-observed decrease of arterial pressure. It seems, therefore, rationally justified to restore cardiac filling by generous administration of intravenous fluids, at least in patients with unaffected cardiac pump function. During induction of anaesthesia, central venous pressure and pulmonary capillary wedge pressure do not reliably indicate cardiac filling.

(Published Online August 16 2006)
(Accepted July 2001)

Key Words: anaesthesia; general; analgesics; opioids; sufentanil; haemodynamics; blood volume; cardiac volume; stroke volume; pulmonary wedge pressure; venous pressure; indicator dilution techniques; intermittent positive pressure ventilation.

c1 Correspondence to: Tilman von Spiegel, Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University of Bonn, Siegmund-Freud-Straße 25, D-53105 Bonn, Germany. E-mail:; Tel: +49 228 2874110; Fax: +49 228 2874115