Purpose of review: Steadily mounting evidence of anesthesia-induced developmental neurotoxicity has been a challenge in pediatric anesthesiology. Considering that presently used anesthetics have, in different animal models, been shown to cause lasting behavioral impairments when administered at the peak of brain development, the nagging question, ‘Is it time for the development of a new anesthetic’ must be pondered.

Recent findings: The emerging ‘soft analogs’ of intravenous anesthetics aim to overcome the shortcomings of currently available clinical drugs. Remimazolam, a novel ester-analog of midazolam, is a well tolerated intravenous drug with beneficial pharmacological properties. Two novel etomidate analogs currently in development are causing less adrenocortical suppression while maintaining equally favorable hemodynamic stability and rapid metabolism. Quaternary lidocaine derivatives are explored as more potent and longer lasting alternatives to currently available local anesthetics. Xenon, a noble gas with anesthetic properties, is being considered as an anesthetic-sparing adjuvant in pediatric population. Finally, alphaxalone is being reevaluated in a new drug formulation because of its favorable pharmacological properties.

Summary: Although a number of exciting anesthetic drugs are under development, there is currently no clear evidence to suggest their lack of neurotoxic properties in young brain. Well designed preclinical studies are needed to evaluate their neurotoxic potential.

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N Useinovic & V Jevtovic-Todorovic.
Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology August 2022