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Does caffeine improve respiratory rate during remifentanil target controlled infusion sedation? A case report in endoscopic sedation

Fabio Sbaraglia, MD, Mariella De Riso, MD, Maria Elena Riccioni, MD, Guido Costamagna, MD, Maria Sammartino, MD


Sedation for endoscopic procedures may be challenging when facing patients with high risk. Traditional techniques, as propofol or meperidine/midazolam administration, cannot ensure an adequate level of safety and efficacy for these patients. Remifentanil infusion is a common alternative, but the incidence of apneic events does not allow achieving safely a good level of analgesia. To overcome with this issue, the authors borrowed suggestions from other medical fields. The clinical practice has recognized a wide utility of methylxanthines (caffeine, theophylline, etc). The positive effect of caffeine on the airways function is known and in the treatment of neonatal apnea, it works as direct stimulant of central respiratory center. Furthermore, preclinical studies suggest that methylxanthines could have a protective role on the opioids inhibition of the bulbar-pontine respiratory center. As described in this report, the authors observed that, also when apnea has been induced by remifentanil, caffeine is able to restore the respiratory rate. The authors present the management of a respiratory impaired patient scheduled for a therapeutic colonoscopy. Our sedation was focused on the match between remifentanil in target controlled infusion and intravenous caffeine, like an “expresso to wake-up” the respiratory drive.


remifentanil, sedation, caffeine, spontaneous breathing, apnea, endoscopy, methylxanthine, respiratory center

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