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Inhalational versus propofol-based total intravenous anaesthesia: practice patterns and perspectives among Australasian anaesthetists

Department of Anaesthesia, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, Victoria


Increasing evidence suggests that total intravenous anaesthesia (TIVA) may be the preferred anaesthetic for cancer resection surgery. To assist the preparation of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) examining Volatile (versus TIVA) Anaesthesia and Perioperative Outcomes Related to Cancer (VAPOR-C) we developed an 18-question electronic survey to investigate practice patterns and perspectives (emphasising indications, barriers, and impact on cancer outcomes) of TIVA versus inhalational general anaesthesia in Australasia. The survey was emailed to 1,000 (of 5,300 active Fellows) randomly selected Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) Fellows. The response rate was 27.5% (n=275). Of the respondents, 18% use TIVA for the majority of cases. In contrast, 46% use TIVA 20% of the time or less. Respondents described indications for TIVA as high risk of nausea, neurosurgery, and susceptibility to malignant hyperthermia. Lack of equipment, lack of education and cost were not considered barriers to TIVA use, and a significant proportion (41%) of respondents would use TIVA more often if setup were easier. Of the respondents, 43% thought that TIVA was associated with less cancer recurrence than inhalational anaesthesia, while 46% thought that there was no difference. Yet, only 29% of respondents reported that they use TIVA often or very often for cancer surgery. In Australasia, there is generally a low frequency of TIVA use despite a perception of benefit when compared with inhalational anaesthesia. Anaesthetists are willing to use TIVA for indications where sufficient evidence supports a meaningful level of improvement in clinical outcome. The survey explores attitudes towards use of TIVA for cancer surgery and demonstrates equipoise in anaesthetists’ opinions regarding this indication. The inconsistent use of TIVA in Australasia, minimal barriers to its use, and the equipoise in anaesthetists’ opinions regarding the effect of TIVA versus inhalational anaesthesia on cancer outcomes support the need for a large prospective RCT.

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