Severe Hypoxemia Prevents Spontaneous and Naloxone-induced Breathing Recovery after Fentanyl Overdose in Awake and Sedated Rats

Philippe Haouzi, Daniel Guck, Marissa McCann, Molly Sternick, Takashi Sonobe, Nicole Tubbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: As severe acute hypoxemia produces a rapid inhibition of the respiratory neuronal activity through a nonopioid mechanism, we have investigated in adult rats the effects of hypoxemia after fentanyl overdose-induced apnea on (1) autoresuscitation and (2) the antidotal effects of naloxone. Methods: In nonsedated rats, the breath-by-breath ventilatory and pulmonary gas exchange response to fentanyl overdose (300 µg · kg-1 · min-1 iv in 1 min) was determined in an open flow plethysmograph. The effects of inhaling air (nine rats) or a hypoxic mixture (fractional inspired oxygen tension between 7.3 and 11.3%, eight rats) on the ability to recover a spontaneous breathing rhythm and on the effects of naloxone (2 mg · kg-1) were investigated. In addition, arterial blood gases, arterial blood pressure, ventilation, and pulmonary gas exchange were determined in spontaneously breathing tracheostomized urethane-anesthetized rats in response to (1) fentanyl-induced hypoventilation (7 rats), (2) fentanyl-induced apnea (10 rats) in air and hyperoxia, and (3) isolated anoxic exposure (4 rats). Data are expressed as median and range. results: In air-breathing nonsedated rats, fentanyl produced an apnea within 14 s (12 to 29 s). A spontaneous rhythmic activity always resumed after 85.4 s (33 to 141 s) consisting of a persistent low tidal volume and slow frequency rhythmic activity that rescued all animals. Naloxone, 10 min later, immediately restored the baseline level of ventilation. At fractional inspired oxygen tension less than 10%, fentanyl-induced apnea was irreversible despite a transient gasping pattern; the administration of naloxone had no effects. In sedated rats, when Pao2 reached 16 mmHg during fentanyl-induced apnea, no spontaneous recovery of breathing occurred and naloxone had no rescuing effect, despite circulation being maintained. Conclusions: Hypoxia-induced ventilatory depression during fentanyl induced apnea (1) opposes the spontaneous emergence of a respiratory rhythm, which would have rescued the animals otherwise, and (2) prevents the effects of high dose naloxone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1138-1150
Number of pages13
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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