Inhalation agents are anesthetics that you inhale. Inhalation anesthetics are used to both begin (induce) and maintain general anesthesia. Induction with inhalation agents is preferred for small children and adults when it would be difficult to give anesthetics through a vein (intravenously, IV).
Inhalation anesthetics are often preferred for general anesthesia because they are easy to give through a face mask, an endotracheal (ET) tube, or a laryngeal mask airway (LMA). They also act quickly and wear off relatively quickly. But after they wear off, inhalation anesthetics do not provide any long-lasting relief from pain (analgesia).
The most commonly used inhalation agents include:
Anyone receiving inhalant anesthetics for general anesthesia is closely monitored, because the anesthetics can strongly affect the central nervous system and cardiovascular system and significantly affect breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure, and other vital functions.
Some inhalation agents have an unpleasant odor and may irritate the respiratory tract. But your anesthetist uses these agents in a skillful manner and combines them with other agents to avoid airway irritation. Sevoflurane is less irritating to the airway and is preferred for inducing anesthesia in children.
All the potent inhalation agents are capable of triggering malignant hyperthermia (MH), a rare inherited (genetic) disorder that is potentially fatal.
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