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Delirium in older patients given propofol or sevoflurane anaesthesia for major cancer surgery: a multicentre randomised trial

July 4, 2023

Background:
Delirium is a common and disturbing postoperative complication that might be ameliorated by propofol- based anaesthesia. We therefore tested the primary hypothesis that there is less delirium after propofol-based than after sevoflurane-based anaesthesia within 7 days of major cancer surgery.
Methods:
This multicentre randomised trial was conducted in 14 tertiary care hospitals in China. Patients aged 65e90 yr undergoing major cancer surgery were randomised to either propofol-based anaesthesia or to sevoflurane-based anaesthesia. The primary endpoint was the incidence of delirium within 7 postoperative days.
Results:
A total of 1228 subjects were enrolled and randomised, with 1195 subjects included in the modified intention-to- treat analysis (mean age 71 yr; 422 [35%] women); one subject died before delirium assessment. Delirium occurred in 8.4% (50/597) of subjects given propofol-based anaesthesia vs 12.4% (74/597) of subjects given sevoflurane-based anaesthesia (relative risk 0.68 [95% confidence interval {CI}: 0.48e0.95]; P¼0.023; adjusted relative risk 0.59 [95% CI: 0.39e0.90]; P¼0.014). Delirium reduction mainly occurred on the first day after surgery, with a prevalence of 5.4% (32/597) with propofol anaesthesia vs 10.7% (64/597) with sevoflurane anaesthesia (relative risk 0.50 [95% CI: 0.33e0.75]; P¼0.001). Secondary endpoints, including ICU admission, postoperative duration of hospitalisation, major complications within 30 days, cognitive function at 30 days and 3 yr, and safety outcomes, did not differ significantly between groups.
Conclusions:
Delirium was a third less common after propofol than sevoflurane anaesthesia in older patients having major cancer surgery. Clinicians might therefore reasonably select propofol-based anaesthesia in patients at high risk of postoperative delirium.
Clinical trial registration:
Chinese Clinical Trial Registry (ChiCTR-IPR-15006209) andClinicalTrials.gov ((NCT02662257).
Keywords:
Aged; Anaesthesia, Intravenous; Propofol; Anaesthesia, Inhalation; Sevoflurane; Delirium; General Surgery; Thoracic Surgery