Nitrous oxide (medication)

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Nitrous oxide (medication)
Entonox set.png
Entonox CD cylinder and giving set
Clinical data
Trade names Entonox, others
ATC code
Pharmacokinetic data
Onset of action 30 seconds[1]
Duration of action 1 minute[1]
Identifiers
CAS Number
PubChem CID
DrugBank
ChemSpider
UNII
ChEBI
ChEMBL
Chemical and physical data
Formula N2O
Molar mass 44.01 g·mol−1
3D model (Jmol)

Nitrous oxide, sold under the brand name Entonox among others, is an inhaled gas used as a pain medication and together with other medications for anesthesia.[2] Common uses include during childbirth, following trauma, and as part of end of life care.[2] Onset of effect is typically within half a minute and lasts for about a minute.[1]

There are few side effects, other than vomiting, with short term use.[1][2] With long term use anemia or numbness may occur.[2] It should always be given with at least 21% oxygen.[2] It is not recommended in people with a bowel obstruction or pneumothorax.[2] Use in the early part of pregnancy is not recommended.[1] Breastfeeding can occur following use.[3]

Nitrous oxide was discovered between 1772 and 1793 and used for anesthesia in 1844.[4] It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.[5] It often comes as a 50/50 mixture with oxygen.[1] Devices with a demand valve are available for self-administration.[6] The setup and maintenance is relatively expensive for developing countries.[7][8]

Medical uses[edit]

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is itself active[clarification needed] (does not require any changes in the body to become active), and so has an onset in roughly the lungbrain circulation time. This gives it a peak action 30 seconds after the start of administration;[1] Entonox should thus be used accordingly, i.e. inhalation should start 30 seconds before a contraction becomes painful in labour. It is removed from the body unchanged via the lungs, and does not accumulate under normal conditions, explaining the rapid offset of around 60 seconds.[1]

Nitrous oxide is more soluble than oxygen and nitrogen, so will tend to diffuse into any air spaces within the body. This makes it dangerous to use in patients with pneumothorax or those who have recently been scuba diving, and there are cautions over its use with any bowel obstruction.

Its analgesic effect is strong (equivalent to 15 mg of subcutaneous route morphine[1]) and characterised by rapid onset and offset, i.e. it is very fast-acting and wears off very quickly.

Contraindications[edit]

N2O should not be used in patients with bowel obstruction, pneumothorax, middle ear or sinus disease,[1] and should also not be used on any patient who has been scuba diving within the preceding 24 hours[9] or in violently disturbed psychiatric patients.[10] There are also clinical cautions in place for the first two trimesters of pregnancy and in patients with decreased levels of consciousness.[1]

Composition[edit]

Distinct blue and white cap of an Entonox cylinder
Typical Schrader valve attachment, making the gas usable only with demand based giving sets

The gas is a mixture of half nitrous oxide (N2O or laughing gas) and half oxygen (O2).[1][10] The ability to combine N2O (nitrous oxide is the common name; dinitrogen monoxide, systematic name) and oxygen at high pressure while remaining in the gaseous form is caused by the Poynting effect (after John Henry Poynting, an English physicist).[1]

The Poynting effect involves the dissolution of gaseous O2 when bubbled through liquid N2O, with vaporisation of the liquid to form a gaseous O2/N2O mixture.[1]

Inhalation of pure N2O over a continued period would deprive the patient of oxygen,[11] but the 50% oxygen content prevents this from occurring. The two gases will separate at low temperatures (<4 °C), which would permit administration of hypoxic mixtures. Therefore, it is not given from a cold cylinder without being shaken (usually by cylinder inversion) to remix the gases.

Administration[edit]

The gas is self-administered through a demand valve, using a mouthpiece, bite block or face mask.[10] Self-administration of Entonox is safe because if enough is inhaled to start to induce anaesthesia, the patient becomes unable to hold the valve, and so will drop it and soon exhale the residual gas. This means that unlike other anaesthetic gases, it does not require the presence of an anaesthetist for administration. The 50% oxygen in Entonox ensures the patient will have sufficient oxygen in their system for a short period of apnea (or apnoea) to be safe.

History[edit]

Pure N2O was first used as a medical analgesic in December 1844, when Horace Wells made the first 12–15 dental operations with the gas in Hartford..[12][13]

Its debut as a generally accepted method, however, came in 1863, when Gardner Quincy Colton introduced it more broadly at all the Colton Dental Association clinics, that he founded in New Haven and New York City.[14]

The first devices used in dentistry to administer the gas consisted of a simple breathing bag made of rubber cloth.[15]

Breathing the pure gas often caused hypoxia (oxygen insufficiency) and sometimes death by asphyxiation. Eventually practitioners became aware of the need to provide at least 21% oxygen content in the gas (the same percentage as in air).[13] In 1911, the anaesthetist Arthur Ernest Guedel first described the use of self-administration of a nitrous oxide and oxygen mix. It was not until 1961 that the first paper was published by Michael Tunstall and others, describing the administration of a pre-mixed 50:50 nitrous oxide and oxygen mix, which led to the commercialisation of the product.[13]

Today the nitrous oxide is administered in hospitals by a relative analgesia machine, which includes several improvements such as flowmeters and constant-flow regulators, an anaesthetic vaporiser, a medical ventilator, and a scavenger system, and delivers a precisely dosed and breath-actuated flow of nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen.

The machine used in dentistry is much simpler, and is meant to be used by the patient in a fully conscious state. The gas is delivered through a demand-valve inhaler over the nose, which will only release gas when the patient inhales through it.

Society and culture[edit]

Nitronox is a registered trademark of BOC.[10] It is also colloquially known as "gas and air".[16]

Research[edit]

Investigational trials show potential for antidepressant applications of N2O, especially for treatment-resistant forms of depression, and it is rapid-acting.[17][18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Anaesthesia UK : Entonox". www.frca.co.uk. 26 January 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f WHO Model Formulary 2008 (PDF). World Health Organization. 2009. p. 20. ISBN 9789241547659. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  3. ^ "Nitrous Oxide use while Breastfeeding | Drugs.com". www.drugs.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  4. ^ Myers, Richard L. (2007). 100 Most Important Chemical Compounds, The: A Reference Guide: A Reference Guide. ABC-CLIO. p. 198. ISBN 9780313080579. 
  5. ^ "WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (19th List)" (PDF). World Health Organization. April 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  6. ^ British national formulary : BNF 69 (69 ed.). British Medical Association. 2015. p. 878. ISBN 9780857111562. 
  7. ^ Gregory, George A.; Andropoulos, Dean B. (2012). Gregory's Pediatric Anesthesia, With Wiley Desktop Edition. John Wiley & Sons. p. 1148. ISBN 9781444333466. 
  8. ^ "WHO Model Prescribing Information: Drugs Used in Anaesthesia: General anaesthetics and oxygen: Nitrous oxide". apps.who.int. 1989. Retrieved 15 December 2016. 
  9. ^ Komesaroff, D (1998). "Oxygen administration in diving accidents.". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal. 28 (3 Supplement). Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  10. ^ a b c d Fisher, J; Brown, S; Cooke, M (2006). UK Ambulance Service Clinical Practice Guidelines (PDF). Joint Royal Colleges Ambulance Liaison Committee. ISBN 1-84690-060-3. 
  11. ^ "Breathing Nitrous Oxide". Nitrous Oxide Supplies. 
  12. ^ Erving HW (1933). "The Discoverer of Anæsthesia: Dr. Horace Wells of Hartford". Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, May 1933; v.5, n.5, p.421–430. 
  13. ^ a b c "History of Entonox". BOC Gases. 
  14. ^ Sneader W (2005). Drug Discovery –A History. (Part 1: Legacy of the past, chapter 8: systematic medicine, pp. 74–87). John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-89980-8. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  15. ^ Miller AH (1941). "Technical Development of Gas Anesthesia". Anesthesiology journal. 2 (4): 398–409. doi:10.1097/00000542-194107000-00004. Archived from the original on 19 December 2014. 
  16. ^ "Entonox (gas and air)". Baby Centre. 
  17. ^ Nagele, Peter; A. Duma; M. Kopec; M. A. Gebara; A. Parsoei; M. Walker; A. Janski; V. N. Panagopoulos; P. Cristancho; J. P. Miller; C. F. Zorumski; C. R. Conway (2015). "Nitrous Oxide for Treatment-Resistant Major Depression: A Proof-of-Concept Trial". Biological Psychiatry. 78 (1): 10–18. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.11.016. 
  18. ^ Newport, D. Jeffrey; et al. (2015). "Ketamine and Other NMDA Antagonists: Early Clinical Trials and Possible Mechanisms in Depression". American Journal of Psychiatry. 172 (10): 950–966. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.15040465. 

Further reading[edit]

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