Incidence of awareness in total i.v. anaesthesia based on propofol, alfentanil and neuromuscular blockade


Department of Anaesthesia LÄnssjukhuset S-391 85 Kalmar Sweden


Background: There is no reliable technique for monitoring drug concentrations in totali.v. anaesthesia (TIVA) with muscle relaxation. An increased risk of awareness with TIVAhas been stated as a possible drawback (1, 2). The present study was conducted in order toassess the incidence of conscious awareness in TTVA based on propofol, alfentanil and neuromuscular blockade.

Methods: One thousand patients anaesthetized with TIVA based on propofol, alfentanil, and neuromuscular blockade were subjected postoperatively to a structured interview for conscious awareness on two separate occasions: on discharge from the post-anaesthesia care unit, and the day after anaesthesia. Five hundred of these patientswere also interviewed a third time, approximately 1 week later.

Results: Two cases of awareness were detected (0.2%). One of these was identified immediately after extubation. The second patient had no memory of intraoperative events or dreams at the first interview, recalled a bad dream on the day after, and had explicit recall of intraoperative events at the interview 8 days later. In both cases, haemodynamic signs of inadequate anaesthesia were present. The incidence of conscious awareness in this study is similar to the lowest previously reported incidence of awareness following general anaesthesia in patientswho had been paralyzed and thereafter subjected to a structured postanesthesia interview.

Conclusions: If the true incidence of conscious awareness is to be determined, interviewsmust be extended beyond the first postoperative day. Our study indicates that if appropriate dosing of propofol and alfentanil are adhered to, and proper action is taken in case of haemodynamic alterations suggestive of inadequate anaesthesia, the incidence of conscious awareness in non-cardiac TIVA with neuromuscular blockade is low.