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Free radical scavengers in anaesthesiology and critical care

Indian Journal of Anaesthesia
Medknow Publications
Publication Date
DOI: 10.4103/0019-5049.98760
  • Special Article
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Design
  • Medicine
  • Philosophy


Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable compounds. These highly reactive molecules cause oxidative damage to cellular components such as DNA, proteins and lipids. They play central role in the mechanism of cell injury and cell death. Free radical scavengers either prevent these reactive species from being formed, or remove them before they can damage vital components of the cell. Oxidative stress defines an imbalance in production of oxidizing chemical species and their effective removal by protective antioxidants and scavenger enzymes. Evidence of massive oxidative stress is well established in critical illnesses characterized by tissue ischaemia-reperfusion injury and by an intense systemic inflammatory response such as during sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome, acute lung injury. Several clinical trials have been performed in order to reduce oxidative stress by supplementation of antioxidants alone or in combination with standard therapies. Antioxidant supplementation at an early stage of illness may lead to improved therapies in the treatment of critically ill patients. Several intravenous anaesthetic drugs act as reactive oxygen species scavengers. Anaesthetic preconditioning is of particular interest to anaesthesiologist, in which lasting protection of myocardium is elicited by brief exposure to a inhalational anaesthetic agent. These anasthetics may also mediate protective effects in other organs, such as the brain and kidney It is important for the anaesthesiologist to understand the mechanism of damage caused by free radicals and how free radical scavengers work so that this knowledge can be applied to varied pathological conditions. The topic was hand searched in text books and electronically searched from PubMed and Google scholar using text words.

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