For over 170 years, doctors have been using many different forms of anesthesia to make patients unconscious when it is necessary for surgery. Millions of Americans receive anesthesia every year, and it is now a very common part of surgery. While it is a very common practice, many people still wonder about the effects of anesthesia on the mind and body. The truth is, all of the details of exactly how the process works is unknown, but more is being discovered about the effects of anesthesia on the mind and body with each new study. In an article from Business Insider, Anesthesiologist Jill Fong explains how anesthesia interrupts the brain’s neural pathways so patients don’t feel pain during a procedure. She discusses how for anesthesia to work correctly, you need amnesia so the patient does not remember anything from the surgery and analgesia so the patient has pain relief. Depending on the type of surgery and the operating conditions, some patients may also be given muscle relaxers to keep their body relaxed, while others may be given medication to suppress excitatory neurons or enhance inhibitory neurons. The article explains “Excitatory neurons, for example, get excited and send signals to other neurons to fire. Depressing them means less signals telling your brain you’re in pain. Inhibitory neurons do the opposite. They make it harder for neurons to generate these electrical signals. In either case this means fewer active neurons overall which is important because when your body is being poked and prodded, neurons would typically fire to tell your brain you’re in pain. If those neurons aren’t firing, your brain doesn’t know that your body is, well, being cut open.” The pathways and communication between your neural networks are interrupted, which leaves the body unconscious, and unable to feel or remember a surgery. Identifying the effects of anesthesia on the mind and body is sometimes tough to determine, considering all of the advancements which have been made since its first use in 1846. Without the advancements in anesthesia, we would not have the advancements in surgery. Countless studies and immense research is helping us understand exactly how anesthesia works, and if necessary how it can be improved. For more information on anesthesia, visit our website at www.steelcityanesthesia.com.
Although anesthesia is an extremely common and crucial part of the world of medicine today, there are still many unanswered questions about how it actually works. Many aspects of anesthesia are constantly being researched and explored, and new discoveries are constantly being made. One question that is often asked by patients and physicians alike, is are you partly conscious under anesthesia? A new study performed by the research group of Adjunct Professor of Pharmacology and Anaesthesiologist Harry Scheinin studying anaesthesia mechanisms, and the research group of Professor of Psychology Antti Revonsuo studying human consciousness and brain from the point of view of philosophy and psychology, aims to answer this common question. The first part of this study involved healthy adults who were anesthetized with dexmedetomidine or propofol, while being monitored with an electroencephalogram (EEG) and a positron emission tomography (PET). The drugs were given to the subjects until they had just almost lost responsiveness. They could then be woken up with loud talking or a light shake. As soon as the person regained responsiveness, they were asked if they experienced anything during their time under anesthesia. Nearly all the participants said they experienced something similar to a dream. The subjects also were played sentences, half which ended normally and half that ended in a strange way. One unexpected sentence, for example, was “The night sky was filled with shimmering tomatoes”. If the subject heard the strange sentence when they were awake, a reaction would show on the EEG. However, when they were under anesthesia, their brains could not tell the difference between the normal and strange sentences. The activity on the EEG did show, however, the brain was trying to interpret the meaning of the words. When the patients woke up from the anesthesia, they had no memory of the sentences. The subjects in this study were lastly played very unpleasant sounds while they were under anesthesia. When they woke up, they were played these sounds, along with others that had not been played before. The participants reacted quicker to the sounds that had already been played. So can we answer the common question are you partly conscious under anesthesia? The results of this study has lead researchers to believe that consciousness is not completely lost when a patient is put under anesthesia, even though the person is not reacting to what is happening around them. The brain may try to understand words and register speech while under anesthesia, but they will not remember when they are woken up and regain full consciousness. “The state of consciousness induced by anaesthetics can be similar to natural sleep. While sleeping, people dream and the brain observes the occurrences and stimuli in their environment subconsciously” summarises Professor Revonsuo. “Anaesthesia could resemble normal sleep more than we have previously thought” adds Dr. Scheinin. While this topic will continue to be researched, these findings are extremely helpful to doctors and patients hoping to understand anesthesia a bit more.
Having a child with health issues can be extremely stressful on parents and guardians, especially when the young child needs to undergo a serious procedure that requires anesthesia. While parents are often apprehensive about the effects anesthesia may have on their child in the future, a new study from the Mayo Clinic shows anesthesia in young children is not linked to a lower IQ. This topic is often researched, and the results from this particular study should be reassuring to parents with children in need of surgery. This particular study researched a group of 997 children born between 1994 and 2007, all from the same county. 380 of these children had been exposed to anesthesia once before the age of three, 206 children had been exposed to anesthesia two or more times, and 411 children had never been exposed to anesthesia in their lifetime. 42% of those studied had received anesthesia due to a surgery for medical conditions involving the ears, nose, and throat. The group was given brain function tests between age 8 and 12 and again between age 15 and 20. When the results from this study were assessed, there were no significant differences between the three groups in the areas of intelligence, memory, and other brain functions that were measured. Children exposed to anesthesia multiple times before the age of three did, however, have a slight decrease processing speed of the brain and in fine motor coordination. These children also had a greater likelihood of behavioral problems and learning difficulties. This is evidence that anesthesia in young children is not linked to a lower IQ. “These secondary outcomes must be interpreted cautiously,” write the researchers, “but [they] suggest … that exposure to multiple procedures requiring general anesthesia is associated with a subtle, specific pattern of injury that may have consequences for subsequent learning and behavior.” This was an observational study, which means the results that showed lower scores in motor skills and brain processing, could be unrelated to the multiple exposures to anesthesia. Dr. David Warner, the study’s lead author and a pediatric anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Rochester doesn’t want this study’s findings to scare parents. “The last thing I want to do is prevent any child who needs an operation from getting it because of this,” he said. “Overall, the results are pretty reassuring,” said Dr. David Warner,“There’s not much evidence that a single exposure is associated with any harmful outcome.” Of children that need surgery before the age of three, more than 80% of children only undergo that one procedure. While this topic is still being researched, this study should give parents some peace of mind wthat anesthesia in young children is not linked to a lower IQ. The results show that when the benefits of the surgery outweigh the risks of anesthesia, parents should be able to make the decision with less stress and worry. If you or someone you know is preparing for surgery that requires anesthesia, head to the Anesthesia Information for Surgery Patients section of our website.
Studies on anesthesia are continuously providing us with new information and a better understanding of the effects it may have on patients undergoing surgery. Many people are apprehensive before undergoing any procedure, but especially when it requires general anesthesia. Many studies have been conducted to answer the question can anesthesia cause memory problems? A new study shows that any cognitive changes in patients after anesthesia are very small and insignificant. The study analyzed a group of middle-aged men and women, with an average age of 54 years old. 312 who had had one or more procedures that require general anesthesia and 652 people who had never been under general anesthesia. None of the people studied had ever had neurological or heart surgery, because both can affect cognitive performance. At the start of the study, all participants had normal cognitive functioning. The results of the study showed that on average, the participants who had been under general anesthesia had small declines in immediate memory over a four year period. It also showed that people who were exposed to general anesthesia for longer periods of time, for longer surgeries, showed greater declines in executive functioning, which includes skills like planning and focusing. While small changes were seen, study author Dr. Kirk Hogan, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, said “the cognitive changes after surgery are small — most probably asymptomatic and beneath a person’s awareness,” Although this study did show some minor declines, researchers say the study results still cannot directly tie cognitive performance declines to anesthesia. Other conditions, the surgery itself, and other factors may affect these declines in the people involved in the study. This topic will continue to be studied, but this should give patients some peace of mind knowing that if there is some type of cognitive decline due to anesthesia, it is very insignificant and not noticeable to the average person. To learn more about anesthesia and what you need to know before a procedure, visit the Anesthesia Information for Surgery Patients section on the Steel City Anesthesia Website.
In today’s modern world, the use of anesthesia during a medical procedure has become a necessity and is extremely common. The luxury of being “asleep” and feeling no pain during a surgery is something we can’t imagine living without this day in age. This was not always the case, and the first use of anesthesia took place in 1846 during a procedure to remove a tumor in a patient’s neck. At that time, the drug of choice was ether which did indeed knock the patient unconscious, but unfortunately was extremely dangerous. Today, there are many options anesthesiologists can use, however it is still not completely clear how the process of anesthesia works. A recent study has shown like humans, plants react to general anesthesia. Scientists and doctors are continuously researching the science of anesthesia and we are constantly finding out more about the process. One group of researchers formed a study that explored the effects of anesthesia on plants and concluded that plants react to general anesthesia. Scientists have known for some time that plants are affected by anesthesia, in fact, Claude Bernard discovered this over one hundred years ago. This new study explored this fact even further and had the goal of understanding the link between the plant and animal system in terms of anesthesia. One of the plants used in this study was Dionaea muscipula, also known as the venus flytrap. Researchers first observed the venus flytrap as it functions normally, where triggering hairs in the plants trap causes it to snap shut. After exposing the plant to diethyl ether gas, the plant is unresponsive to the trigger. After 15 minutes, it seems the plant recovers and then responds to a trigger. The team of scientists conducting this research, hope their results from this study will help unlock the mystery of how anesthesia works in humans. The team of researchers from Germany, Japan, the Czech Republic, and Italy published their study in Annals of Botany. This ongoing research is helpful to doctors and anesthesia providers, as well as to patients. The more information patients have on the process of anesthesia, the more they can be at ease when preparing for a procedure. If you or someone you know is preparing to go under anesthesia, click here to visit the Steel City Anesthesia website for more information.
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