BackgroundExhaled propofol concentrations correlate with propofol concentrations in adult human blood and the brain tissue of rats, as well as with electroencephalography (EEG) based indices of anesthetic depth. The pharmacokinetics of propofol are however different in children compared to adults. The value of exhaled propofol measurements in pediatric anesthesia has not yet been investigated. Breathing system filters and breathing circuits can also interfere with the measurements. In this study, we investigated correlations between exhaled propofol (exP) concentrations and the Narkotrend Index (NI) as well as calculated propofol plasma concentrations.MethodsA multi-capillary-column (MCC) combined with ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) was used to determine exP. Optimal positioning of breathing system filters (near-patient or patient-distant) and sample line (proximal or distal to filter) were investigated. Measurements were taken during induction (I), maintenance (M) and emergence (E) of children under total intravenous anesthesia (TIVA). Correlations between ExP concentrations and NI and predicted plasma propofol concentrations (using pediatric pharmacokinetic models Kataria and Paedfusor) were assessed using Pearson correlation and regression analysis.ResultsNear-patient positioning of breathing system filters led to continuously rising exP values when exP was measured proximal to the filters, and lower concentrations when exP was measured distal to the filters. The breathing system filters were therefore subsequently attached between the breathing system tubes and the inspiratory and expiratory limbs of the anesthetic machine. ExP concentrations significantly correlated with NI and propofol concentrations predicted by pharmacokinetic models during induction and maintenance of anesthesia. During emergence, exP significantly correlated with predicted propofol concentrations, but not with NI.ConclusionIn this study, we demonstrated that exP correlates with calculated propofol concentrations and NI during induction and maintenance in pediatric patients. However, the correlations are highly variable and there are substantial obstacles: Without patient proximal placement of filters, the breathing circuit tubing must be changed after each patient, and furthermore, during ventilation, a considerable additional loss of heat and moisture can occur. Adhesion of propofol to plastic parts (endotracheal tube, breathing circle) may especially be problematic during emergence.Trial RegistrationThe study was registered in the German registry of clinical studies (DRKS-ID: DRKS00015795).