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The Effects of Single-Dose Etomidate Versus Propofol on Cortisol Levels in Pediatric Patients Undergoing Urologic Surgery: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Du, Yi MD; Chen, Yi-Jun MD; He, Bin MD, PhD; Wang, Ying-Wei MD, PhD

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000000981
Pediatric Anesthesiology: Research Report

BACKGROUND: The effects of general anesthetics on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and cortisol release in children are poorly characterized. Normal, daily fluctuation of cortisol levels complicates assessment of these effects. This study aimed to characterize the effects of etomidate compared with propofol on the normal cortisol secretory pattern in children undergoing urologic surgery by using a salivary cortisol assay.

METHODS: In this prospective, randomized, double-blind, controlled study, we recruited 80 children aged 3 to 12 years assigned ASA physical status I who were scheduled for urologic surgery and 11 healthy child volunteers. Before surgery, cortisol levels of the 11 volunteers and 15 study patients were tested from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM every hour for 1 day. The study patients were then randomly allocated into an etomidate group and a propofol group, receiving etomidate 0.3 mg/kg (n = 38) or propofol 2 mg/kg (n = 39) and midazolam 0.1 mg/kg, fentanyl 2 μg/kg, and rocuronium 0.6 mg/kg for induction, respectively. The cortisol levels of the patients were assessed continuously for 2 days postoperatively.

RESULTS: The cortisol levels of the etomidate group were continuously and significantly lower than those of the propofol group from the time of discharge from the postanesthesia care unit (approximately 2:00 PM) until 8:00 AM the next morning (all P < 0.0001) and were significantly lower than before surgery at the same time points (all P < 0.0001). Except at 11:00 AM just before the operation, no significant differences in cortisol levels were detected before and after the operation in the propofol group (P max = 0.476, P min = 0.002). Also, no significant differences in clinical outcomes were detected between the 2 groups undergoing surgery (all P > 0.070).

CONCLUSIONS: Compared with propofol, a single induction dose of etomidate suppressed postoperative cortisol levels in healthy children undergoing urologic surgery. This suppression lasted approximately 24 hours and was not associated with any changes in clinical outcomes.

From the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Xinhua Hospital, affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.

Accepted for publication July 10, 2015.

Funding: None.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints will not be available from the authors.

Address correspondence to Ying-Wei Wang, MD, PhD, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Shanghai Xinhua Hospital, P.O. Box 200092, Shanghai Kongjiang Rd. 1665, Shanghai, China. Address e-mail to

© 2015 International Anesthesia Research Society