Are Estimates of MAC Reliable?
Potency of inhaled anesthetics (minimum alveolar concentration [MAC]) is typically studied in humans using an "up-down" approach in which the (quantal) response to skin incision is assessed only once for each individual, so that each individual's MAC is never determined. The authors examined the influence of interindividual variability and study design issues (e.g., the number of patients enrolled in a study) on the accuracy of MAC estimates. Methods: The typical sequence of a MAC study was
... a MAC study was simulated. The authors varied and tested the impact of several factors: anesthetic concentration used to start a study; number of "crossovers" (successive patients having different responses to skin incision) to terminate a study; concentration increment between consecutive patients; interindividual variability; and "measurement error." For each factor, simulations were replicated 500 times, and the resulting estimates were summarized. Results: Starting an experiment below or above the "true" value led to slightly biased MAC estimates; in contrast, variability was underestimated with starting concentrations close to the true value. More than six crossovers improved MAC estimates minimally but increased variability estimates toward true values. A larger increment size affected MAC minimally and increased variability estimates toward true values. A larger interindividual variability led to more "outlier" estimates for MAC. Under many conditions, several of 500 replicates yielded MAC estimates that deviated more than 10% or even more than 25% from the "true" value. Conclusion: Individual experiments may yield inaccurate MAC estimates. This inaccuracy is minimized as the number of crossovers increases; however, improvement diminishes as the number of crossovers exceeds six. Additional material related to this article can be found on the ANESTHESIOLOGY Web site. Go to the following address, click on Enhancements Index, and then scroll down to find the appropriate article and link.