Effect of propofol and remifentanil on a somatosensory evoked potential indicator of pain perception intensity in volunteers


Somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) have been linked to noxious activation and stimulus intensity. In this exploratory study we investigated the impact of anaesthetic drugs on SEPs and pain ratings, to assess their applicability as an objective measure of the nociception/anti-nociception balance. Following institutional approval and written informed consent, 10 healthy adult volunteers were enrolled (29.5 ± 9.1 years, 63.0 ± 8.9 kg and 171.4 ± 7.2). Median nerve electrical stimulation was adjusted according to volunteers’ sensitive, motor and painful thresholds (PT). Baseline SEPs were registered, and remifentanil and propofol administered using a stair scheme TCI. For each drug combination a 1.3×PT stimulus was administered, and volunteers evaluated pain intensity in a numerical rating scale (0–10). SEPs’ amplitudes and latencies were normalized by the baseline values, reducing volunteers’ intervariability. Stimulation currents varied between 6–52 mA (1.3×PT) and pain ratings between 0 and 9. Cortical SEPs latencies were decreased for higher stimulus intensities (P < 0.01), accompanied by increased pain ratings (P < 0.01). An individually adjusted/normalized ratio based on cortical SEPs amplitude and interpeak latency is proposed(\(R_{Norm}\)): \(R_{Norm}\) and NSR were significantly correlated in three out of nine subjects, and \(R_{Norm}\) and remifentanil Ce were significantly correlated in two (low number of evaluation points). \(R_{Norm}\) was shown to decrease with increasing doses of propofol and remifentanil (P < 0.05). The proposed metric was depressed by anaesthetics and reflected pain evaluations. Further research is necessary to increase the number of volunteers and drugs’ combination, to assess its applicability during surgically adequate anesthetic leves.

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The authors would like to thank the participation of all volunteers and clinical investigators in this study, especially Dr. Francisco Lobo, Dr. Liliana Pinto, Dr. Diana Afonso, Dr. Germano Cardoso, Dr. Helena and Dr. Luís Silva (Neurinbloc). The first author was supported by a scholarship from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT - SFRH/BD/35879/2007). The authors would also like to acknowledge the UISPA-IDMEC Porto.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Ana Castro.

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Castro, A., Amorim, P., Nunes, C.S. et al. Effect of propofol and remifentanil on a somatosensory evoked potential indicator of pain perception intensity in volunteers. J Clin Monit Comput 29, 561–567 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10877-014-9632-0

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  • Pain
  • Nociception
  • Monitoring
  • Somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs)
  • TIVA