The perioperative inflammatory response may be implicated in adverse outcomes including neurocognitive dysfunction and cancer recurrence after oncological surgery. The immunomodulatory role of anesthetic agents has been demonstrated in vitro; however, its clinical relevance is unclear. The purpose of this meta-analysis was to compare propofol and sevoflurane with respect to biomarkers of perioperative inflammation. The secondary aim was to correlate markers of inflammation with clinical measures of perioperative cognition.
Databases were searched for randomized controlled trials examining perioperative inflammation after general anesthesia using propofol compared to sevoflurane. Inflammatory biomarkers investigated were interleukin (IL)-6, IL-10, tissue necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), and C-reactive protein (CRP). The secondary outcome was incidence of perioperative neurocognitive disorders. Meta-analysis with metaregression was performed to determine the difference between propofol and sevoflurane.
Twenty-three studies were included with 1611 participants. Studies varied by surgery type, duration, and participant age. There was an increase in the mean inflammatory biomarker levels following surgery, with meta-analysis revealing no difference in effect between propofol and sevoflurane. Heterogeneity between studies was high, with surgery type, duration, and patient age contributing to the variance across studies. Only 5 studies examined postoperative cognitive outcomes; thus, a meta-analysis could not be performed. Nonetheless, of these 5 studies, 4 reported a reduced incidence of cognitive decline associated with propofol use.
Surgery induces an inflammatory response; however, the inflammatory response did not differ as a function of anesthetic technique. This absence of an effect suggests that patient and surgical variables may have a far more significant impact on the postoperative inflammatory responses than anesthetic technique. The majority of studies assessing perioperative cognition in older patients reported a benefit associated with the use of propofol; however, larger trials using homogenous outcomes are needed to demonstrate such an effect.