Sevoflurane or halothane anesthesia: Can we tell the difference?

Andreas Bacher, Allen W. Burton, Tatsuo Uchida, Mark H. Zornow

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21 Scopus citations


This study was performed to evaluate the ability of anesthesiologists to differentiate between sevoflurane, a newer, more expensive anesthetic, and halothane. A total of 113 assessments were made by 36 anesthesiologists on 58 children, aged 6 mo to 6 yr, scheduled for bilateral myringotomy and tube placement. All patients received midazolam (0.5 mg/kg per os) approximately 30 rain before the induction of anesthesia. Sevoflurane or halothane was randomly selected for anesthetic induction and maintenance. The anesthesiologists, who were unaware of the anesthetic being used, were asked to identify the anesthetic based on clinical signs and to assess the quality of induction, speed of induction, and speed of emergence using a visual analog scale (VAS; minimum score = 0, maximum score = 100). The anesthesiologists correctly identified the anesthetic only 56.6% of the time. This was not significantly different from the 50% that would result from random guessing (P = 0.08). Further, there were no significant differences in VAS scores between the two groups. This study suggests that in premedicated pediatric patients undergoing brief surgical procedures, anesthesiologists cannot correctly differentiate between sevoflurane and halothane. The lack of significant differences in VAS scores suggests that the speed of induction, the speed of emergence, and the quality of induction are similar under these clinical conditions. Any purported benefits of sevoflurane seem to be of minor consequence under the circumstances studied. Implications: When the anesthetic halothane or sevoflurane is administered in a blind, randomized fashion, anesthesiologists could not reliably identify which drug was being used to anesthetize children for a brief surgical procedure. These results suggest that the differences between the two drugs in clinical practice are small and may not justify the additional cost of sevoflurane.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1203-1206
Number of pages4
JournalAnesthesia and analgesia
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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