Long-term effects of nitrous oxide anaesthesia on laboratory and clinical parameters in elderly Omani patients: a randomized double-blind study.

Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Sultan Qaboos University, PO Box 35, Al-Khod, Muscat-123, Sultanate of Oman.
Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics (Impact Factor: 1.53). 09/2000; 25(4):271-7. DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2710.2000.00287.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This study examined the long-term effects of nitrous oxide anaesthesia on serum levels of cobalamin and folate, red cell folate levels and haematological parameters, and neurological status in elderly Omani patients.
Sixty-nine consecutive patients undergoing ophthalmic surgery were randomly and double-blind assigned to nitrous oxide or propofol anaesthesia. They met the following entry criteria: age 55 years or above, no major organ failure, no clinical signs or symptoms of cobalamin or folate deficiency, mean cell volume (MCV) </= 96 fl, haematocrit (Hct) higher than 0.3 and no cobalamin and/or folate substitution therapy during the preceding months. Serum levels of cobalamin and folate, red cell folate levels, and haematological parameters were measured prior to anaesthesia and 3-5 weeks later. At that time, the patients also underwent thorough neurological examination.
Data of 51 patients were complete and considered for analysis. In both nitrous oxide and propofol group, the range of exposure time was comparable (+/-1 h). In the nitrous oxide group, a slight but significant decrease in haemoglobin, Hct, and red blood cell count (RBC) (P < 0.001) was observed, whereas there was a mild increase in mean cell haemoglobin (MCH) and mean cell volume (P < 0.05). In addition, there was a significant decrease in serum folate levels (P < 0.05). Hct and RBC decreased slightly in the propofol group (P < 0. 05), whereas there was a small increase in MCH. There was no difference between the two anaesthetics with regard to serum cobalamin and red cell folate levels, but there was a significant decrease in serum folate levels in the nitrous oxide group compared to those in the propofol group. Three patients with pre-existing low red cell folate levels, who were randomized to nitrous oxide anaesthesia, developed clinical symptoms of folate deficiency.
This study showed that short-term (40-80 min) nitrous oxide anaesthesia did not affect cobalamin levels but reduced serum folate levels in this elderly population. Although this reduction was clinically irrelevant, some patients with pre-existing asymptomatic folate deficiency developed nitrous oxide-induced folate deficiency.

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