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New Canadian Technology Could Reduce Anesthesia Errors and Deaths

The prospect of undergoing surgery is terrifying for many patients. While some fear the prospect of never waking up afterwards, some also harbor a very real fear of waking up too soon, while the surgery is still ongoing. While this sort of anesthesia error is not one of the most common types of medical malpractice, when it does happen it is truly horrifying. Fortunately, a new technology developed in Canada may one day almost eliminate these errors and make anesthesia much more personalized to the patient, and thus, more effective.

Do Patients Actually Wake up During Surgeries?

Patients do currently actually wake up during surgeries. Sometimes this is because of a patient’s unique body and there is nothing that an anesthesiologist could have done differently to prevent it from happening. But other times it is due to an anesthesiologist’s having done something wrong, having made an improper calculation, or having just not paid close enough attention to the patient. When this happens it is called “accidental awareness during general anesthesia” and it can lead to severe psychological trauma and even cause post-traumatic stress disorder.

One of the most recent studies on the subject surveyed over three million patients in the United Kingdom and Ireland and found that roughly one out of every 19,600 patients who underwent surgery had this terrifying experience. Almost half of the patients who had the experienced suffered from long term psychological problems as a result. This is partially because most surgeries require the administration of a paralytic in addition to the anesthesia so when the patient unexpectedly wakes up, he or she is helpless and cannot communicate the fact that he or she is awake to the doctors. In the United States experts estimate that of the 21 million patients who receive anesthesia each year, 26,000 of them experience anesthetic awareness.

Canadian Technology May Solve this Problem

CTV News reports that a new Canadian-made device may solve the problem of human errors in the administration in anesthesia that result in patients waking up at inappropriate times. These devices are basically automatic delivery machines. While a trained and experienced anesthesiologist still needs to be around when they are in use, much like a trained and experienced pilot still needs to be in the plain when autopilots are engaged, these devices can eliminate many of those anesthesiologists’ errors making their jobs easier and the experience safer for patients. Originally the thought on anesthesia was that patients should be administered as much as possible without killing them so that they did not wake up.

But then doctors learned that this approach could have adverse effects on patients’ recoveries and that it could affect child patients’ brain development. So now the approach is to only administer as much of the anesthesia drugs as is absolutely necessary. The dose is based on a patient’s weight and age but, especially in long surgeries, this method is not foolproof. That is where this new Canadian device called iControl-RP comes in. It is an automatic dosing machine that monitors the patient’s brainwaves and blood oxygen levels to determine how much anesthesia to deliver each minute. This device has been tested in 400 surgeries so far, and the early data shows that it is as safe as traditionally delivered anesthesia. The next step for the device is that it is going to be tested by the U.S. Navy in emergency field surgeries where anesthesiologists are often unavailable.

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