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Debunked: A Century-Old Theory of How Anesthesia Works

  • Every year, millions of Americans are able to experience a painless surgery with the help of anesthesia, even though most don’t really know how anesthesia works. Each day, Steel City Anesthesia helps administer anesthesia to Ambulatory Surgery Centers, and hospitals and doctors’ offices across Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Although it is extremely common and vital to the world of medicine, there is constant research to find out exactly how anesthesia works. The most common theory is that anesthetics block neural function by disrupting fat molecules in the cell membranes. However, new research from a study done by Weill Cornell Medicine may have debunked a century-old theory of how anesthesia works. Co-researcher Dr. Hugh Hemmings, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine, discusses the new findings saying they have debunked a century-old theory of how anesthesia works and, “Finally have proof that these anesthetics must have a direct effect on integral membrane proteins – and not an indirect effect on proteins through the lipid bilayer – to put patients in a coma-like state, allowing them to undergo painful procedures with no memory or pain.” This new evidence supports the idea that anesthesia does not affect the lipid bilayer, which is the part of the cell membrane that is made up of fat. The new findings show rather than interacting indirectly through the membrane itself, anesthetics interact directly with membrane proteins, which inhibit electrical communications between neurons, which triggers unconsciousness. Researchers in this study reconstructed a model cell surrounded by thin membrane in order to determine the biological mechanism behind anesthesia. Thirteen different anesthetic agents were tested using a technique developed by by Dr. Olaf Andersen, a professor of physiology and biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Dr. Helgi Ingólfsson, Ph.D. The results showed that none of the anesthetics tested affected the lipid bilayer properties. “That was a very surprising result,” said Dr. Andersen. “When we started conducting the experiments I was convinced we would see some effect on the bilayer. The fact that the results are as clean as they are was to me really amazing.” While there is still more research to be done on this topic, these results are groundbreaking in the world of anesthesia. Researchers are always hoping to learn more, and this study may have just “debunked” a century old theory of how anesthesia works. As we focus on patient care and achieving industry leading satisfaction ratings,  having a better understanding of the mechanisms behind anesthesia can lead to the development of new anesthetic agents with less undesirable side effects.

    15 Mar
    15 Mar
  • New laws and changes in legislature are common and affect many different things, including the world of healthcare. Medical professionals are required to make changes and adapt as needed to make sure they are following the laws and guidelines. Recently, a new law in Utah has passed that is causing conflict between medical professionals and the government. The bill, recently signed, is the first of its kind.  This new law requires anesthesia for abortions past 20 weeks to be administered by doctors to patients to eliminate pain for the fetus. Whether or not a fetus can feel pain at that state remains to be a controversial topic, and many doctors and medical professionals have varying opinions. “If a child can experience pain, we have an obligation to protect that child,” said Republican state Sen. Curt Bramble, who sponsored the law. Bramble originally hoped to ban all abortions after 20 weeks but abandoned the idea after legislative attorneys warned him it would likely be unconstitutional. Many agree that the fetus will feel some degree of pain and hope that this law will change that while protecting the fetus. While many support this law, many doctors disagree and are fighting back. Doctors are uniting across the country and are concerned if a law requires anesthesia for abortions, the use of anesthesia or painkillers may increase health risks for women by giving them heavy sedation. Some believe it is unnecessary and not healthy for the woman. Dr. Leah Torres, a Salt Lake City obstetrician-gynecologist claims to be confused by the law and says “I have no choice but to cross my fingers and hope that what I’m doing already is in compliance, because I don’t know what they’re talking about,” With the subject of fetal pain still being a very controversial topic, people can argue which side is right and wrong. Regardless of what a doctor or medical professional may believe, the bill passed and changes will now have to be made as this law requires anesthesia for abortions. With further research and tests, hopefully more information will be available on this controversial and important topic.

    25 May
    25 May
  • General anesthesia is very commonly used to induce unconsciousness in patients undergoing surgery. Each year millions of people in the United States are required to receive anesthesia, and there is no single right amount for every patient. Factors such as weight, age, gender, illness, and medications all play a role in determining just how much anesthesia each person needs. A patient’s heart rate and rhythm, breathing rate, blood pressure, and oxygen and carbon dioxide levels are also monitored so the amount of anesthesia can be adjusted as needed. A recent study from the University of Cambridge, published in PLOS Computational Biology, may have identified a better way to calculate the amount of anesthesia one may need. A group of 20 volunteers were involved in this study to discover how brainwaves can identify patient anesthesia needs. The Brain Signals and Anesthesia As different areas of the brain communicate with each other they give off signals that can indicate a person’s level of consciousness. In the study, researchers gave a steadily increasing dosage of propofol to the group of healthy volunteers (9 male, 11 female). Their brain activity was monitored using an electroencephalogram (EEG). While receiving the propofol, the individuals were asking to perform a simple task where they would hit one button after hearing a “ping” and a different button after hearing a “pong”. All of the people involved in this study had the same limited amount of propofol and once that limit was hit some were unconscious while others were still awake and able to continue performing the task. Researchers studied EEG results and found a very clear difference between that brain activity of those who were affected by that amount of anesthetic and those who were still able to perform the task. EEG readings showed that volunteers with more alpha wave activity prior to receiving the anesthesia required more propofol to put them under. Researchers said “These findings could lead to more accurate drug titration and brain state monitoring during anesthesia,”. Dr Tristan Bekinschtein, senior author from the Department of Psychology, adds: “EEG machines are commonplace in hospitals and relatively inexpensive. With some engineering and further testing, we expect they could be adapted to help doctors optimise the amount of drug an individual needs to receive to become unconscious without increasing their risk of complications.” Although this is a relatively new study, many agree that with more testing and research, monitoring brainwave activity prior to administering anesthesia may be a useful, non-invasive way of measuring the dosage needed for each unique patient.

    01 Feb
    01 Feb
  • Getting a colonoscopy? Are you worried about the procedure? Check out this informative and entertaining video on colonoscopies. We promise it will make you smile!

    23 Jan
    23 Jan
  • March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Cancer of the colon or rectum is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. It affects both men and women and is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the US. Chances of developing colorectal cancer increase with age with more than 90% of cases occurring in people aged 50 or older. If you are age 50 or older, one of the best things you can do to protect yourself against colorectal cancer is  get screened on a routine basis. It is estimated that 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if individuals were screened routinely. These screenings detect colorectal cancer early, when treatment is most effective. Individuals that have a close relative that has had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or those with inflammatory bowel disease should also consider getting tested earlier than age 50 and more often than others. There are several tests used to screen for colorectal cancer. One of the more popular and effective of these is the colonoscopy. It is a procedure used to see inside the colon and rectum for detection of inflamed tissue, ulcers and abnormal growths. A colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years. This is one of the most common procedures our experienced CRNAs at Steel City Anesthesia  put patients under for. Your doctor will provide you a detailed set of instructions on how to prepare for a colonoscopy; this is called bowel prep. All solids must be emptied from the gastrointestinal tract followed by a clear liquid diet. This allows the physician conducting your colonoscopy to thoroughly examine your colon without any obstructions. Throughout the procedure, you will be under a sedative to keep you relaxed and as comfortable as possible. How Can You Support Colorectal Cancer Awareness? You can spread awareness by wearing a colon cancer ribbon. The colon cancer ribbon is a small piece of dark blue ribbon folded into a loop. By wearing a ribbon, you show your support for colon cancer patients that have fought the disease to return to a normal life. You also spread knowledge about colon cancer and how it can be prevented. If a ribbon isn’t your thing, there are also rubber bracelets, T-shirts, pins and other items you can wear. Learn more on the Colon Cancer Alliance website.

    25 Mar
    25 Mar