Volatile anesthetics have been historically preferred for cardiac anesthesia, but the evidence for their superiority to intravenous agents is mixed. We conducted a survey to better understand the current state of practice and the rationale behind provider preferences for anesthesia for cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass. We hypothesized that anesthetic preference would vary considerably among surveyed providers without a clear majority, as would the rationale behind those preferences.
Email invitations were sent to members of the Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists, who were asked to identify the anesthetics or sedatives they typically prefer to administer during induction, prebypass, bypass, postbypass, and postoperative periods and why they prefer those agents. Members’ beliefs regarding the importance of anesthetics on postoperative outcomes were also assessed.
Invitations were sent on 2 separate dates to 3328 and 3274 members, of whom 689 (21%) responded. The median (interquartile range [IQR]) respondent age was 45 (37–56) years, 79% were men, and 75% were fellowship trained. The most frequently chosen drug for induction was propofol (80%). Isoflurane was the most frequently selected primary agent for the prebypass (57%), bypass (62%), and postbypass periods (50%). Sevoflurane was the second most frequently selected (30%; 17%, and 24%, respectively). Propofol was the third most frequently selected agent for the bypass (14%) and postbypass periods (17%). Ease of use was the most frequently selected reason for administering isoflurane and sevoflurane for each period. During bypass, the second most frequently selected rationale for using isoflurane and sevoflurane was institutional practice. A total of 76% responded that the perfusionist typically delivers the bypass anesthetic. Ischemic preconditioning, organ protection, and postoperative cognitive function were infrequently selected as rationales for preferring the volatile anesthetics. Most respondents (73%) think that anesthetics have organ-protective properties, especially isoflurane (74%) and sevoflurane (59%), and 72% believed that anesthetic choice contributes to patient outcome. The median (IQR) agreement (0 = strongly disagree to 100 = strongly agree) was 72 (63–85) for the statement that “inhaled anesthetics are an optimal maintenance anesthetic for cardiac surgery.”
In a survey of cardiac anesthesiologists, a majority of respondents indicated that they prefer volatile anesthetics for maintenance of anesthesia, that anesthetic selection impacts patient outcomes, and that volatile anesthetics have organ-protective properties. The members’ rationales for preferring these agents possibly reflect that practical considerations, such as ease of use, effectiveness, and institutional practice, also influence anesthetic selection during cardiac surgery in addition to considerations such as organ protection.