Isoflurane vs. Sevoflurane

What's the Difference?

Isoflurane and Sevoflurane are both commonly used volatile anesthetics in medical practice. They belong to the same class of drugs and share similar properties, but there are some differences between them. Isoflurane has a higher blood-gas solubility compared to Sevoflurane, which means it takes longer for the body to eliminate it. On the other hand, Sevoflurane has a lower blood-gas solubility, allowing for a faster induction and recovery from anesthesia. Sevoflurane is also known for its pleasant smell and taste, making it more tolerable for patients, especially children. However, Isoflurane is considered to have a more stable cardiovascular profile and is less likely to cause adverse effects on the heart. Ultimately, the choice between Isoflurane and Sevoflurane depends on the specific needs of the patient and the preferences of the anesthesiologist.


Anesthetic TypeInhalationInhalation
Chemical FormulaC3H2ClF5OC4H3F7O
Boiling Point48.5°C (119.3°F)58.6°C (137.5°F)
Vapor Pressure238 mmHg157 mmHg
MAC (Minimum Alveolar Concentration)1.151.71

Further Detail


Anesthesia plays a crucial role in modern medicine, allowing for painless surgeries and procedures. Among the various types of anesthesia, inhalational agents are commonly used. Two widely used inhalational anesthetics are isoflurane and sevoflurane. While both agents serve the same purpose, they have distinct attributes that make them suitable for different situations. This article aims to compare the attributes of isoflurane and sevoflurane, shedding light on their similarities and differences.

Chemical Composition

Isoflurane and sevoflurane belong to the same class of inhalational anesthetics known as halogenated ethers. However, their chemical compositions differ. Isoflurane is a halogenated methyl ethyl ether with the chemical formula C3H2ClF5O, while sevoflurane is a halogenated methyl isopropyl ether with the chemical formula C4H3F7O. These differences in chemical structure contribute to variations in their pharmacokinetics and clinical effects.

Vapor Pressure and Volatility

Vapor pressure and volatility are important factors to consider when selecting an inhalational anesthetic. Isoflurane has a higher vapor pressure compared to sevoflurane, meaning it evaporates more readily at room temperature. This higher volatility allows for a faster induction and emergence from anesthesia when using isoflurane. On the other hand, sevoflurane has a lower vapor pressure and is less volatile, resulting in a slower onset and offset of anesthesia. This characteristic makes sevoflurane more suitable for longer procedures where a more controlled and gradual anesthesia induction and recovery are desired.

Blood-Gas Solubility

Blood-gas solubility refers to the ability of an anesthetic to dissolve in blood. A lower blood-gas solubility indicates faster uptake and elimination of the anesthetic from the bloodstream. Sevoflurane has a lower blood-gas solubility compared to isoflurane, allowing for a more rapid induction and emergence from anesthesia. This property is particularly advantageous in outpatient settings where a shorter recovery time is desired. Isoflurane, with its higher blood-gas solubility, may be preferred in cases where a more prolonged effect is required, such as in complex surgical procedures.

Metabolism and Biodegradation

Metabolism and biodegradation of anesthetic agents are important considerations for patient safety. Isoflurane undergoes minimal metabolism in the body, with less than 0.2% being metabolized. The majority of isoflurane is eliminated unchanged through exhalation. On the other hand, sevoflurane is biotransformed to a greater extent, with approximately 5% being metabolized in the liver. This metabolism produces a compound called compound A, which can potentially cause renal toxicity in high concentrations. However, the clinical significance of compound A remains controversial, and sevoflurane is generally considered safe for use in most patients.

Respiratory and Cardiovascular Effects

Both isoflurane and sevoflurane have similar effects on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. They both cause dose-dependent respiratory depression, leading to a decrease in tidal volume and minute ventilation. Additionally, they both induce dose-dependent vasodilation, resulting in a decrease in systemic vascular resistance and blood pressure. However, sevoflurane has been reported to have a more favorable profile in terms of respiratory irritation and airway reactivity compared to isoflurane. This makes sevoflurane a preferred choice in patients with a history of airway sensitivity or asthma.

Cost and Availability

Cost and availability are practical considerations when choosing an anesthetic agent. Isoflurane has been available for a longer time and is generally less expensive compared to sevoflurane. This cost difference may be a significant factor in resource-limited settings or when considering the overall budget of a healthcare facility. However, sevoflurane has gained popularity due to its favorable pharmacokinetic profile and lower potential for adverse effects, leading to increased availability and competitive pricing in many regions.


Isoflurane and sevoflurane are both valuable inhalational anesthetics with their own unique attributes. Isoflurane offers faster induction and emergence, making it suitable for shorter procedures. On the other hand, sevoflurane provides a more controlled and gradual anesthesia induction and recovery, making it preferable for longer surgeries. Factors such as vapor pressure, blood-gas solubility, metabolism, respiratory and cardiovascular effects, as well as cost and availability, should be considered when selecting between the two agents. Ultimately, the choice between isoflurane and sevoflurane depends on the specific needs of the patient, the nature of the procedure, and the resources available.

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