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What is Alfentanil?

Article Details
  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 26 December 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Alfentanil, sold under the product names Alfenta® and Rapifien®, is a short-acting opioid analgesic drug. It is commonly used for anesthesia in surgery or during other medical procedures. Alfentanil may also be used for pain management while the patient is still in the medical facility. It is only administered where the patient can be monitored by qualified professionals. The drug is administered via continuous infusion, slow IV injection into a vein, or as an epidural in the spine.

Medical professionals tend to choose alfentanil when they looking for fewer cardiovascular complications than can be found with other drugs used for the same purpose, such as remifentnil and fentanyl. It can also cause a more intense respiratory depression than these drugs, thus requiring that the patient’s breathing be observed more closely. While the patient is in recovery, blood pressure, heart rate, and rhythm are also typically monitored through use of an EKG machine. As alfentanil causes minimal disruption to the body, it is often used for short procedures and day surgeries where the recipient is expected to be an outpatient.

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Due to the drowsiness and dizziness alfentanil causes, patients who have been administered the drug must avoid activities that require concentration such as operating heavy machinery and driving until these effects wear off. For the same reason, alcohol must be avoided, as it only amplifies those sensations. Nursing mothers who have been on the drug are advised to work with a doctor to determine when it is safe to begin feeding again as the medication can be passed to their babies through their milk.

Though it is one of the mildest drugs used for anesthesia, there are some conditions which make administration of alfentanil a high risk for certain patients. The drug is not advised for patients who have had an allergy to narcotics, head injury, and liver or kidney disease. Elderly patients also tend to be more sensitive to alfentanil due to extended terminal elimination or reduced plasma count. The drug is also not typically given to children under the age of 12.

The most common side effects of taking alfentanil are difficulty with urination, confusion, and fainting or a lightheaded sensation. Some of the milder effects are headache, flushing, constipation, blurred vision, and nausea or vomiting. Patients are advised to consult a doctor if they experience the more severe side effects, including problems breathing, a change in heart rate, seizures, or atypical weakness.

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