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.
Any type of surgery is likely to cause anxiety and fear in patients of all ages. However, surgery can be a completely terrifying and stressful experience for children. This can pose a problem for medical professionals, especially when administering anesthesia to these young patients. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals have used different techniques over the years, hoping to calm patients down before procedures and treatments. While stickers and toys have been very helpful, medical professionals are now finding that new technologies are very effective. The latest finds that virtual reality calms young surgical patients more effectively than other methods. Thanks to a group of pediatric specialists at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, virtual reality calms young surgical patients. A technique that has been helpful for older children, is giving them a virtual tour of the hospital and operating room beforehand so they know exactly what to expect on the day of their surgery. Zack Dwyer, a 17 year old preparing for surgery to correct supraventricular tachycardia, strapped on virtual reality goggles on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, taking a virtual trip through the hospital starting at the entrance and ending in the recovery room. He had an opportunity to see exactly what he was going to see on the day of his surgery, even what it would look like as he was lying in the operating room speaking to a surgeon. After undergoing his procedure, Dwyer said “It definitely would have been super overwhelming if I didn’t know that was coming”. While this technique works great for teenagers, younger children can be a bit more difficult. Administering anesthesia to frightened children can be a challenge as their fear leads them to squirm and pull off their anesthesia masks. For these kids, virtual reality video games are used to distract them and trick them into breathing the anesthetic. One game, Sevo the Dragon, takes breathing anesthetic through a mask and turns it into an enjoyable game. Children pick a dragon avatar and the type of food they want to “cook” using the dragons fiery breath. The patient continues to play the game until they fall asleep. While these techniques are still in their early stages, they are already seeing how virtual reality clms young surgical patients, reducing their fear and anxiety on the day of their surgery. This technology is primarily being used on children at the moment, but it may be a helpful distraction for older patients as well. A reduction of stress and anxiety in patients undergoing anesthesia is helpful to the person as well as the medical professionals assisting with the procedure.
As children, our mother’s healing voice was always something that could calm us down and make us feel better. Even now as adults, many people will still give their Mom a call when faced with a stressful situation. Researchers have recognized this, and are hoping to determine if a mom’s voice helps reduce emergence delirium if children hear their mother’s healing voice in a recording after anesthesia. After a procedure, children recovering from anesthesia sometimes experience a behavioral disturbance known as “emergence delirium.” The condition may cause patients to become very confused or experience hallucinations, which can be stressful for the children as well as caregivers and parents. Aside from being extremely uncomfortable and frightening, emergence delirium can be dangerous. Children sometimes move violently, injuring themselves and opening incisions. Researchers in South Korea believe a mom’s voice helps reduce emergence delirium. Studies in the past have shown that a mother’s voice can activate certain areas in the brain, affect behavioral and neural responses, and involuntarily cause children to be more attentive. The study included 66 children between the ages of two and eight recovering from eye, ear, nose, or throat surgeries. Half of the children heard a recording of their mother’s voice asking them to wake up over noise-cancelling headphones, while the other half heard a stranger saying the same words. Researchers will examine the results, and determine whether or not the children who heard mom’s voice helps reduce emergence delirium than the children who heard the voice of a stranger. This study has just recently concluded, and researchers are still studying and analyzing the results. If they do find a link the mom’s voice helps reduce emergence delirium in children, it will be a great option for medical professionals to use to keep children safe and reduce the child’s stress and anxiety following anesthesia.
Living in the United States, access to electricity is something we take for granted. If you’re going to a hospital in the US, you never have to worry about the electricity cutting off for hours at a time without warning. Unfortunately, for many people in other parts of the world, electricity is limited and often very unreliable. To have brownouts and power spikes is a regular occurrence and happens often over the course of a day, which is why battery powered anesthesia machines are saving lives. This is a huge issue for hospitals in rural parts of the developing world. These power outages force surgeons to postpone and hold off on operations, which often costs patients their life. But battery powered anesthesia machines are changing all of that. A nonprofit medical device company, Gradian Health Systems, has developed a groundbreaking device called the Universal Anesthesia Machine, or UAM, which are battery powered anesthesia machines in which workers in countries such as Malawi, SIerra Leone, and Zambia can administer anesthesia without electricity. This device can be a huge factor in saving the lives of many patients around the world. “We knew that the need was insatiable, frankly, given the number of hospitals and the number of countries that experience these challenges,” said Erica Frenkel, cofounder and COO of Gradian Health Systems. “We have a pretty good shot here at making a big dent in what is otherwise a really challenging issue.” Besides usually requiring electricity, medical grade pure oxygen is also needed to deliver anesthesia to patients. In U.S. hospitals, pure oxygen is manufactured on-site, but in hospitals in the developing world, this is not possible. The UAM are not only battery powered anesthesia machines, but they also can solve the problem for hospitals needing pure oxygen. The machine uses an integrated oxygen concentrator, that allows the machine to generate its own oxygen. When cylinder, pipeline, or portable oxygen is available, the machine can use it, but the UAM automatically draws in room air as the “carrier gas” to create pure medical-grade oxygen suitable for delivering anesthesia. The Universal Anesthesia Machine can operate for up to six hours using a rechargeable energy, meaning doctors won’t have to postpone surgery if the electricity goes out, saving the lives of patients. Gradian’s mission is to not only train people how to use the machine, but also how to fix it. A power outage during surgery is something, as Americans, we are blessed to not have to worry about. These battery powered anesthesia machines can ease the minds of doctors operating on patients in developing countries. It will give them peace of mind knowing that if something goes wrong, there is a machine that will provide backup. To see Erica Frenkel’s TED talk on the Universal Anesthesia Machine, CLICK HERE.
Researchers in the past have been concerned of the effects of Anesthesia during youth oral cleft surgery, worrying it would cause cognitive impairment later in life. This has caused a great deal of worry and anxiety for many parents. Oral cleft surgeries in particular were thought of to have the highest risk, due to how early they are performed in a child’s life. Some studies have shown that children that undergo surgery from an oral cleft often experience cognitive dysfunction, and face many academic challenges. While some thought this may be linked to anesthesia at such a young age, a recent study has proven this to be untrue. Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark and the University of Iowa have recently published results of a study examining the theory that there is no connection between anesthesia exposure and cognitive impairment. Researchers studied a group of 558 teenagers who had undergone surgery for cleft lip, cleft palate, or both at a young age. Research showed that 509 of the oral cleft children had undergone at least one cleft operation and were exposed to an anesthetic. Results of the study done on the adolescents that underwent cleft surgery were compared to a control group. Although these teenagers in the study were exposed to anesthesia at a very young age, researchers found no significant difference in the teens that underwent cleft lip surgery, cleft palate surgery, or both, and the teenagers in the control group. Leading researchers to believe there is no link or negative effects of anesthesia during youth oral cleft surgery. One difference they did find was that adolescents that had only had cleft palate surgery did have lower test scores than those in the control group, but their surgeries were generally performed later than children with other types of clefts. “This finding is remarkable,” said Dr. Nicola Clausen of the research group. “Studies like the present one cannot definitely prove that anesthetic drugs do not harm developing brains. However, it can put the potential threats into perspective because other factors more importantly impact these children’s neurocognitive development.” While there is still research being done on the effects of anesthesia during youth oral cleft surgery, studies like this can give parents of children needing these surgeries some piece of mind before their child is put under anesthesia. If you or someone you know is preparing for a procedure requiring anesthesia, click here to visit our anesthesia information page to find out more.