Vapor pressures and anesthetizing partial pressures in rats were measured for 10 consecutive normal alkanes, methane through decane. All produced anesthesia as defined by the absence of movement in response to either the application of a tail-clamp or electrical stimulation of the tail. The anesthetizing partial pressure was calculated as the average between the concentrations just permitting and preventing movement. Although nonane and decane did not provide anesthesia when given alone at their saturated vapor pressures, their anesthetic properties could be demonstrated by their ability to decrease the anesthetic requirement for isoflurane (i.e., their anesthetic potencies could be defined by studies of additivity). Anesthetic potency increased (from 9.9 arm for methane to 0.0142 arm for decane) and vapor pressure decreased (from 38.2 atm for ethane to 0.0028 atm for decane) with increasing chain length. The decrease in vapor pressure far exceeded the increase in potency. For nonane and decane, the ratio of the partial pressure required for anesthesia to the saturated vapor pressure was less than 1, being 0.48 and 0.19, respectively. We conclude that no cutoff phenomenon (i.e., no absence of anesthetic effect with longer chain alkanes) exists from n-methane to n-decane, but that larger alkanes have vapor pressures too low to permit their potency to be evident when given alone.
Address correspondence to Dr. Eger, Department of Anesthesia, S-455, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0464.
© 1993 International Anesthesia Research Society