This study reports a review of all comparative published studies of adult day case anaesthesia in the English language up to December 2000. Ten databases were searched using appropriate keywords and data were extracted in a standardized fashion. One hundred-and-one published studies were examined. Recovery measurements were grouped as early, intermediate, late, psychomotor and adverse effects. With respect to induction of anaesthesia, propofol was superior to methohexital, etomidate and thiopental, but equal to sevoflurane and desflurane. Desflurane and sevoflurane were both superior to thiopental. There was no detectable difference between sevoflurane and isoflurane. With respect to the maintenance of anaesthesia, isoflurane and halothane were the worst. There were no significant differences between propofol, desflurane, sevoflurane and enflurane. Propofol is the induction agent of choice in day case patients. The use of a propofol infusion and avoidance of nitrous oxide may help to reduce postoperative nausea and vomiting.
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