The effect of halothane on mucociliary activity in the rabbit maxillary sinus in vivo was recorded photoelectrically. Administration of halothane (1%, 2% or 4%) into the maxillary sinus induced a temporary acceleration of mucociliary activity. The peak increase (39.1% +/- 9.1%, p < 0.05, n = 5) was seen after the 4% concentration. Long-term exposure (60 minutes) of the maxillary sinus to halothane (2%) first induced an increase of 28.4% +/- 4.6% (p < 0.05, n = 6), lasting approximately four minutes, and followed after about 15 minutes by a decrease of mucociliary activity. The maximum decrease during the 60-minute period was 19.6% +/- 2.8% (p < 0.05, n = 6). Mucociliary activity returned to its baseline level approximately 25 minutes after withdrawal of halothane. Halothane delivered to the rabbit through a tracheal cannula at 1.1% for 60 minutes did not impair mucociliary activity in the maxillary sinus. On the contrary, it initially stimulated mucociliary activity, 19.9% +/- 2.7% (p < 0.05, n = 5). There was also an initial increase in respiratory rate from 62 +/- 7.3 to 89 +/- 12.9 breaths per minute (p < 0.05), which was noticeable after approximately 10 seconds and lasted 4 to 5 minutes. The dose-dependent increase in mucociliary activity seen after short-term exposure to halothane is probably due to stimulation of afferent C fibers, because halothane may be considered an airway irritant. The reversible depressant effect seen after 15 minutes of exposure is in accordance with findings in previous studies in vitro. The mechanism by which halothane impairs mucociliary activity is at present not known. However, halothane administered to the lower airways does not impair mucociliary activity in the maxillary sinus, indicating that halothane affects the ciliated epithelium directly and that the state of anesthesia itself has no effect on mucociliary activity.
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