The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to assess the effect of anesthesia maintenance with volatile agents compared with propofol on both short- and long-term mortality (primary outcomes) and major clinical events in adults undergoing cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass.


Randomized clinical trials on the effects of current volatile anesthetics versus propofol in adults undergoing cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass were searched (1965 to September 30, 2019) in PubMed, the Cochrane Library, and article reference lists. A random effect model on standardized mean difference for continuous outcomes and odds ratio for dichotomous outcomes were used to meta-analyze data.


In total, 37 full-text articles (42 studies, 8,197 participants) were included. The class of volatile anesthetics compared with propofol was associated with lower 1-yr mortality (5.5 vs. 6.8%; odds ratio, 0.76 [95% CI, 0.60 to 0.96]; P = 0.023), myocardial infarction (odds ratio, 0.60 [95% CI, 0.39 to 0.92]; P = 0.023), cardiac troponin release (standardized mean difference, −0.39 [95% CI, −0.59 to −0.18], P = 0.0002), need for inotropic medications (odds ratio, 0.40 [95% CI, 0.24 to 0.67]; P = 0.0004), extubation time (standardized mean difference, −0.35 [95% CI, −0.68 to −0.02]; P = 0.038), and with higher cardiac index/output (standardized mean difference, 0.70 [95% CI, 0.37 to 1.04]; P < 0.0001). The class of volatile anesthetics was not associated with changes in short-term mortality (1.63 vs. 1.65%; odds ratio, 1.04 [95% CI, 0.73 to 1.49]; P = 0.820) and acute kidney injury (odds ratio, 1.25 [95% CI, 0.77 to 2.03]; P = 0.358).


In adults undergoing cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass, the class of volatile anesthetics was superior to propofol with regard to long-term mortality, as well as to many secondary outcomes indicating myocardial protection.

Editor’s Perspective
What We Already Know about This Topic
  • Prior meta-analyses of studies comparing mortality in cardiac surgical patients who received intraoperative volatile anesthetics versus propofol have reported conflicting findings.

What This Article Tells Us That Is New
  • This systematic review and meta-analysis included data from randomized clinical trials published through the year 2019 and assessed 8,197 patients undergoing cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass. Although early postoperative mortality did not differ significantly between the anesthetic groups, 1-yr mortality was significantly lower in the patients who received volatile anesthetics.

  • Additionally, patients in the volatile anesthetic group had significantly lower occurrence of perioperative myocardial infarction and troponin release and had higher postoperative cardiac index.

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