Scientists Find New Way To Wake Up Patients After Surgery

Posted: Oct 26 2016, 10:22am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 26 2016, 8:56pm CDT , in Latest Science News


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Scientists Find New Way to Wake Up Patients After Surgery
Credit: MIT

The use of the drug Ritalin can awaken patients rapidly after the administration of general anesthesia.

The use of general anesthesia is inevitable during a surgery. In most surgical procedures, surgeons use anesthesia to put a patient to sleep or to a state of unconsciousness in order to avoid pain as well as the patient’s movement.

While most regain their consciousness easily after the operation, many patients still take a considerable amount of time to wake up. And this leads to a cascade of problems like paying additional charges for the operating room and involving a whole bunch of medical staff to take care of a patient for a period that lasts longer than usual.

Now, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found a new way to waking up a patient promptly after the administration of general anesthesia. Researchers have demonstrated that activating dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain can allow patients to regain consciousness at a timely manner. The finding is very important not only because it will bring patients out of anesthesia rapidly but also because it will help understand how anaesthetics actually work. The mechanism by which patient regain consciousness following general anesthetic has so far been poorly understood.

“The process of how the neural circuits come back online following anesthesia has not really been studied in depth, and this is something that interested us from a clinical standpoint, because we are investigating ways to rapidly reverse anesthesia.”Principal investigator Ken Solt, a research affiliate in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT and an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital said in a statement.

Researchers used Ritalin, a drug known to promote wakefulness, to activate dopamine neurons in the VTA of anesthetized, unconscious mice and monitored the whole process closely until the mice was fully awake.

“Dopamine neurons in the VTA are traditionally thought of as playing a key role in reward, motivation, and drug addiction but had not really been well characterized in the context of arousal,” said Solt. “But we discovered that by activating dopamine neurons in this very specific part of the brain, we were able to reverse the state of general anesthesia and wake up the animals.”

Researchers believe that the new approach could also help overcome the side effects of prolonged unconsciousness caused by the use of anesthesia. Different patients feel different kind of adverse effects after anesthesia wears off. This may include feeling sick, dizziness and vomiting, shivering and memory loss.

Researchers are conducting further experiments in mice to determine whether cognitive function is fully restored with the use of Ritalin following anesthesia. Moreover, they are also carrying out trials of Ritalin in humans, to confirm the results on mice.

“We want to get the patient's cognitive processes back to exactly where they were before they had anesthesia," said Emery Brown, the associate director of MIT's Institute for Medical Engineering and Science.

“We are trying to create a new phase for anesthesia practice in which you actively turn someone’s brain back on after having general anesthesia.”

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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