Redistribution of sufentanil to cerebrospinal fluid and systemic circulation after epidural administration in dogs

R. A. Stevens*, R. H. Petty, H. F. Hill, T. C. Kao, R. Schaffer, M. B. Hahn, P. Harris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Due to its higher lipid solubility, sufentanil may be less likely than morphine to migrate rostrally in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and cause delayed respiratory depression following epidural administration. However, early respiratory depression has been reported in patients after relatively large doses of epidural sufentanil. This has been attributed to systemic drug uptake. We used a dog model to investigate the pharmacokinetics and rostral spread of epidural sufentanil in CSF. Sampling catheters were placed in the lumbar subarachnoid space, the cisterna magna, and femoral arteries of six mongrel dogs. Samples of cisternal CSF, lumbar CSF, and blood were drawn at 0, 1, 5, 15, 30, 60, 90, 120, and 180 min after lumbar epidural sufentanil injection. We measured sufentanil concentrations by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and used the least squares method to a fit tri-exponential function to each sufentanil concentration versus time data set. Paired t- test was used to test for statistical significance. After epidural sufentanil, lumbar CSF concentrations were significantly higher than plasma or cisternal CSF sufentanil concentrations at all assessment times. Sufentanil concentrations were significantly higher in cisternal CSF than in plasma at 30 and 60 min after injection. Sufentanil appeared rapidly in lumbar CSF, reaching a maximum concentration (C(max)) of 57 ng/mL at 6.5 min. In cisternal CSF, a C(max) of 1.2 ng/mL was reached at 21 min, and C(max) in plasma was 0.35 ng/mL at 6 min. The area under the concentration-time curve (AUC) of sufentanil in cisternal CSF was approximately six times higher than the plasma AUC (P < 0.05). We conclude that after a large epidural bolus dose, systemic redistribution of sufentanil is inadequate to explain the magnitude of sufentanil ultimately appearing in cisternal CSF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-327
Number of pages5
JournalAnesthesia and Analgesia
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


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