Electroencephalogram (EEG) discontinuity can occur at high concentrations of anesthetic drugs, reflecting suppression of electrocortical activity. This EEG pattern has been reported in children and reflects a deep state of anesthesia. Isoelectric events on the EEG, a more extreme degree of voltage suppression, have been shown to be associated with worse long-term neurologic outcomes in neonates undergoing cardiac surgery. However, the clinical significance of EEG discontinuities during pediatric anesthesia for noncardiac surgery is not yet known and merits further research. In this study, we assessed the incidence of EEG discontinuity during anesthesia induction in neurologically normal infants and the clinical factors associated with its development. We hypothesized that EEG discontinuity would be associated with sevoflurane-induced alpha (8–12 Hz) power during the period of anesthesia induction in infants.
We prospectively recorded 26 channels of EEG during anesthesia induction in an observational cohort of 54 infants (median age, 7.6; interquartile range [IQR] [4.9–9.8] months). We identified EEG discontinuity, defined as voltage amplitude <25 microvolts for >2 seconds, and assessed its association with sevoflurane-induced alpha power using spectral analysis and multivariable logistic regression adjusting for clinically important variables.
EEG discontinuity was observed in 20 of 54 subjects (37%), with a total of 25 discrete events. Sevoflurane-induced alpha power in the posterior regions of the head (eg, parietal or occipital regions) was significantly lower in the EEG discontinuity group (midline parietal channel on the electroencephalogram, International 10-20 System [Pz]; 8.3 vs 11.2 decibels [dBs]; P = .004), and this association remained after multivariable adjustment (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 0.51 per dB increase in alpha power [95% CI, 0.30–0.89]; P = .02). There were no differences in the baseline (unanesthetized) EEG between groups in alpha power or power in any other frequency band.
We demonstrate that EEG discontinuity is common during anesthesia induction and is related to the level of sevoflurane-induced posterior alpha power, a putative marker of cortical-thalamic circuit development in the first year of life. This association persisted even after adjusting for age and propofol coadministration. The fact that this difference was only observed during anesthesia and not in the baseline EEG suggests that otherwise hidden brain circuit properties are unmasked by general anesthesia. These neurophysiologic markers observed during anesthesia may be useful in identifying patients who may have a greater chance of developing discontinuity.