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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Inhibition of the adrenocorticotropin response to surgery in humans: interaction between dexamethasone and fentanyl.

We examined the plasma ACTH and cortisol responses to surgery in 25 patients with atherosclerotic heart disease undergoing myocardial revascularization. The patients were all premedicated with diazepam, and general anesthesia was induced with thiopental. They were randomly assigned to one of four groups: I) no dexamethasone (DEX), enflurane anesthesia, II) 40 mg DEX, iv, 45-60 min before sternotomy, enflurane anesthesia, III) no DEX, fentanyl [N-(1-phenethyl-4-piperidyl)propionanilide] anesthesia (50-100 micrograms/kg), and IV) DEX, fentanyl anesthesia. Isokalemic hemodilution of significant magnitude occurred during cardiopulmonary bypass. All groups had significant increases in plasma ACTH during surgery, which returned to control levels 22 h after the bypass. Group I (no DEX, no fentanyl) and group III (no DEX, fentanyl) patients had large similar increases in plasma ACTH, which peaked 2-4 h postbypass [400 +/- 83 (+/- SEM) pg/mL; 88 +/- 18 pmol/L]. The group II (DEX, no fentanyl) patients also had large increases in ACTH which were similar to those in groups I and III, except 2-4 h postbypass (183 +/- 91 pg/mL; 40 +/- 20 pmol/L). The group IV (DEX, fentanyl) patients had a significantly attenuated ACTH response to surgery; the mean plasma ACTH level 2-4 h postbypass was only 54 +/- 21 pg/mL (12 +/- 5 pmol/L). Therefore, although DEX or fentanyl alone had a minimal effect on the ACTH response to surgery, a significant attenuation occurred when DEX and fentanyl were used in combination. We conclude that glucocorticoids and morphine agonists exert interactive inhibitory effects on ACTH release in humans, probably by virtue of their suppression of CRH release from the hypothalamus.[1]


  1. Inhibition of the adrenocorticotropin response to surgery in humans: interaction between dexamethasone and fentanyl. Raff, H., Norton, A.J., Flemma, R.J., Findling, J.W. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. (1987) [Pubmed]
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