The objective of this review was to examine the effect of phenylephrine on cerebral oxygen saturation, cardiac output, and middle cerebral artery blood flow velocity when used to treat intraoperative hypotension.
While the etiology of postoperative cognitive dysfunction in adults following surgery is likely multifactorial, intraoperative cerebral hypoperfusion is a commonly proposed mechanism. Research evidence and expert opinion are emerging that suggest phenylephrine adversely affects cerebral oxygen saturation and may also adversely affect cerebral perfusion via a reduction in cardiac output or cerebral vascular vasoconstriction. The administration of phenylephrine to treat intraoperative hypotension is common anesthesia practice, despite a lack of evidence to show it improves cerebral perfusion. Therefore, a systematic review of the effect of phenylephrine on cerebral hemodynamics has significant implications for anesthesia practice and future research.
Studies of adults 18 years and over undergoing elective, non-neurosurgical procedures involving anesthesia were included. In these studies, participants received phenylephrine to treat intraoperative hypotension. The effect of phenylephrine on cerebral oxygen saturation, cardiac output, or middle cerebral artery blood flow velocity was measured.
Key information sources searched included MEDLINE (Ovid), Embase, CINAHL (EBSCO), and Google Scholar. The scope of the search was limited to English-language studies published from 1999 through 2017. The recommended JBI approach to critical appraisal, study selection, data extraction, and data synthesis were used.
This systematic review found that phenylephrine consistently decreased cerebral oxygen saturation values despite simultaneously increasing mean arterial pressure to normal range. Results also found that ephedrine and dopamine were superior to phenylephrine in maintaining or increasing values. Phenylephrine was found to be similar to vasopressin in the extent to which both decreased cerebral oxygen saturation values. Results also showed that phenylephrine resulted in statistically significant declines in cardiac output, or failed to improve abnormally low preintervention values. The effect of phenylephrine on middle cerebral artery blood flow velocity was only measured in one study and showed that phenylephrine increased flow velocity by about 20%. Statistical pooling of the study results was not possible due to the gross variation in how the intervention was administered and how effect was measured.
This review found that phenylephrine administration resulted in declines in cerebral oxygen saturation and cardiac output. However, the research studies were ineffective in informing phenylephrine's mechanism of action or its impact on postoperative cognitive function.
Systematic review registration number: