In clinical practice, drugs are given by continuous infusion to maintain a predictable pharmacodynamic action. In anaesthesia, the most common route is by continuous i.v. infusion, but the extradural, subarachnoid and subcutaneous routes are also regularly used. The effective use of drug infusions requires an understanding of both the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic characteristics of the drug used. Pharmacokinetics describe how the plasma concentration of a drug changes over time, with the assumption that plasma will equilibrate with an effect compartment to produce pharmacodynamic activity. This article will describe, rather than derive equations to explain, the pharmacokinetics of i.v. infusions and a basic understanding of simple models of pharmacokinetics and the relationships between parameters is assumed.
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