Published in Anesthesiology. 2014 Jul;121(1):52-8
Authors: Savilampi J et al
Remifentanil is widely used for monitored anesthesia care in spontaneously breathing patients. However, the authors’ previous studies have shown that remifentanil induces subjective swallowing difficulties, which may increase the risk of aspiration.
Twenty-five healthy volunteers participated in a double-blind, randomized, crossover trial at the University Hospital in Orebro, Orebro, Sweden. The volunteers were studied on two different occasions during which they received either remifentanil with an effect-site target concentration of 3 ng/ml or saline over 1 h. A radionuclide tracer was infused simultaneously into the nasopharynx at a rate of 0.1 ml/min. Aspiration was determined by lung scans, and subjective swallowing difficulties and grip strength were evaluated. The primary outcome was the difference in occurrence of aspiration between remifentanil and placebo treatments. The secondary outcomes were differences in swallowing difficulty and grip strength and the association between aspiration and swallowing difficulty.
During remifentanil and placebo infusion, 48 and 12% of the volunteers aspirated, respectively, difference: 36% (95% CI, 10 to 62%). A similar significant difference was found for swallowing difficulties but not for the association between aspiration and swallowing. No difference was found in grip strength between the two treatments.
Remifentanil infusion at concentrations used in monitored anesthesia care increases the incidence of aspiration. However, the subjective swallowing difficulty induced by remifentanil is not indicative of the aspiration risk.