Neither lipophilicity nor vapor pressure of larger n-alkanes appear to correlate with their anesthetizing partial pressures in inspired gas. Such results suggest that the Meyer-Overton hypothesis and Ferguson's rule may not apply to these compounds. An alternative explanation might be that a large difference in inspired-to-arterial partial pressure exists, i.e., that the inspired partial pressure misrepresents the effective partial pressure. To test this explanation, we investigated the kinetics of five consecutive even-numbered n-alkanes (C2H6 to C10H22) in rats. The ratio of end-tidal-to-inspired (PA/PI), arterial-to-end-tidal (Pa/PA), and arterial-to-inspired (Pa/PI) partial pressures decreased with increasing carbon chain length, consistent with our separate finding that blood solubility increased. Using Pa/PI and the minimum inspired concentration (MIC) obtained previously, we calculated the true effective potency, minimum alveolar anesthetic concentration (MAC); of these n-alkanes as (Pa/PI)(MIC). This markedly improved, but did not perfectly correct, the correlation of MAC with lipid solubility (the Meyer-Overton hypothesis) and vapor pressure (Ferguson's rule). A coefficient of variation of 76.7% was found for the product of MAC and the olive oil/gas partition coefficient. More importantly, the correlation of the logarithm of MAC and oil solubility had a slope of −0.724 (i.e., deviated from −1.0), whereas the slope for eight conventional anesthetics was −1.046 (approached −1.0). These data imply that olive oil does not adequately mimic the nature of the anesthetic site of action of n-alkanes. (Anesth Analg 1994;79:1049–55)
Address correspondence to Edmond I Eger, II, MD, Department of Anesthesia, S-455, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143–0464.
© 1994 International Anesthesia Research Society