Volatile anaesthetics (VA) are commonly used worldwide for induction and/or maintenance of general anaesthesia. They act in the central nervous system to reduce sensation and motor response during surgical and invasive diagnostic procedures. VAs also have some non-anaesthetic properties in the brain when administrated to patients at the extremes of age. Their biological impact on other organs should be taken into account during administration of anaesthesia.


In this review we summarize the recent knowledge on the non-anaesthetic effects of inhaled halogenic ethers on cells and tissues.


Exposure to VAs may promote lasting neuro-behavioural deficits in the brains of developing children and deterioration in cognitive performance in elderly individuals. Preconditioning with VAs can prevent or minimise tissue ischaemia in the heart and brain. VAs act as an anti-inflammatory in response to tissue damage during surgery and may attenuate both local and systemic inflammatory response. Further research is needed to elucidate a link between laboratory findings and their possible effects in humans. Because many questions remain unanswered in this field, translational medicine should be more focused on safety in anaesthesia for the improvement public health.

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