Neutrophils are the first line of defense against invasive microorganisms during and after surgery. There is a possibility that different opioid analgesics used during surgery have different effects on the leucocyte count. We retrospectively analyzed the numbers of leucocytes, neutrophils, and lymphocytes just after surgery in patients who received remifentanil-based anesthesia and those who received fentanyl-based anesthesia.
In female patients who underwent modified mastectomy or simple mastectomy with resection of a lymph node(s) or with biopsy of a sentinel lymph node(s) between January 2010 and December 2013 (n = 83), propensity score pairwise matching was performed according to the patient’s age and procedure, and forty patients (Remifentanil group and Fentanyl group; n = 20 each) were analyzed.
Postoperative numbers of leucocytes and neutrophils were significantly lower in patients who received remifentanil-based anesthesia than in those who received fentanyl-based anesthesia (p = 0.03, p = 0.014; leucocytes and neutrophils, respectively). The increases in the numbers of leucocytes and neutrophils were significantly lower in the patients in the remifentanil group (p = 0.009, p = 0.0046; increase in leucocytes and neutrophils, respectively).
In conclusion, remifentanil-based anesthesia attenuates postoperative leucocyte and neutrophil counts. It is unknown whether this phenomenon indicates the possibility of immunosuppression. Further studies are required.