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

Electrophysiological study in the dog of the risk of cardiac toxicity of bupivacaine.

The risk of toxic effects on the heart of bupivacaine following several kinds of locoregional anaesthesia has been investigated in the dog in situ heart by determining conduction time and effective refractory period in the various parts of the conduction system and the ventricular muscle, as well as the discharge rate of the sinus node. Bupivacaine, i.v. infused at 3 rates, 0.2, 0.3 and 0.4 mg X kg-1 X min-1, proved to have depressant effects on conduction, automatism and excitability. It slows down conduction in all the parts of the myocardium, considerably at high stimulation frequencies, but always much more in the His-Purkinje system and the ventricular contractile fibres than in the atrioventricular node, because it tends to block the sodium rather than the calcium or potassium channel. Its effect remain more moderate, indeed, on sinus automatism and atrial and mainly ventricular refractoriness. Its danger lies, therefore, in the inhibition of conduction, with atrioventricular or His bundle branch block, but more frequently reentrant arrhythmias, likely to result in ventricular fibrillation. However: these alterations are observed with very high plasma levels (about 4 to 9 micrograms X ml-1), much higher than usual peak concentrations following spinal anaesthesia (0.10 micrograms X ml-1) or even epidural anaesthesia or brachial plexus block (1.20 micrograms X ml-1); reversal of these alterations occurs rapidly (reduction by 50% within 30 min for instance), when they have not led to ventricular fibrillation or they have not been associated with circulatory collapse.[1]


  1. Electrophysiological study in the dog of the risk of cardiac toxicity of bupivacaine. Timour, Q., Freysz, M., Lang, J., Béal, J.L., Lakhal, M., Bertrix, L., Faucon, G. Archives internationales de pharmacodynamie et de thérapie. (1987) [Pubmed]
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