Neurons in the ventral spinal cord are more depressed by isoflurane, halothane, and propofol than are neurons in the dorsal spinal cord

Jongbun Kim, Aubrey P Yao, Richard Atherley, Earl Carstens, Steven L. Jinks, Joseph F. Antognini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Volatile anesthetics act primarily in the spinal cord to produce immobility but their exact site of action is unclear. Between 0.8 and 1.2 minimum alveolar anesthetic concentration (MAC), isoflurane does not depress neurons in the dorsal horn, suggesting that it acts at a more ventral site within the spinal cord such as in premotor interneurons and motoneurons. We hypothesized that isoflurane, halothane, and propofol would exert a greater depressant effect on nociceptive responses of ventral horn neurons when compared with dorsal horn neurons. METHODS: Rats were anesthetized with isoflurane or halothane and responses of dorsal (<1200 μm deep) and ventral (>1200 μm) lumbar neurons to noxious mechanical stimulation of the hindpaw were determined at 0.8 and 1.2 MAC. In a third group anesthetized with isoflurane at 0.8 MAC, we administered 5 mg/kg propofol while recording responses from dorsal horn or ventral horn neurons. RESULTS: Dorsal horn neuronal responses were not significantly affected when either isoflurane or halothane was increased from 0.8 to 1.2 MAC; propofol also had no significant effect. On the other hand, with increased isoflurane or halothane concentration, responses of ventral horn neurons were depressed by 60% and 45%, respectively. Propofol profoundly depressed (>90%) ventral horn neurons. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that, in the peri-MAC range, isoflurane, halothane, and propofol have little or no effect on neuronal responses to noxious mechanical stimulation in the spinal dorsal horn but depress such responses in the ventral horn. Immobility produced in the 0.8-1.2 MAC range by these anesthetics appears to result from a depressant action in the ventral horn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1020-1026
Number of pages7
JournalAnesthesia and Analgesia
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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