Anaesthetic awareness in wake of new movie

Published: Thu 29 Nov 2007 10:18 AM
Anaesthetists say efforts to be made to substantially reduce chances of anaesthetic awareness, in wake of new Hollywood thriller
New Zealand anaesthetists today moved to allay public concerns today in the wake of a new Hollywood thriller about the unfortunate patient event known as anaesthetic awareness.
Awareness is a situation where a patient is able to recall events sounds or sensations that have occurred during their surgery under a full general anaesthetic.
The movie which opens across America this week sensationalises a very rare phenomenon, New Zealand Society of Anaesthetists President Andrew Warmington said today.
Awareness if it should occur can be very distressing for a patient who knows they should be asleep and where it occurs around one third of patients may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
Brain functioning monitoring which monitors the brain wave patterns may help to prevent awareness.
`` Brain function monitoring which allows a measure of depth of anaesthesia should be made available on a clinically indicated basis to those patients that are more at risk of awareness episodes and those procedures that lend themselves more to this event occurring, such as cardiac surgery and obstetrics.
``The anaesthetist is a medically trained doctor who is taught to recognize and manage awareness and ensure the patient’s anaesthesia is a safe, controlled and uneventful event.
``For a caesarian section that is an operative surgical delivery of the baby the anaesthetist has to manage the level of anaesthesia to both the mother and the unborn baby and to ensure optimum care to both.’’
Warmington said the NZSA may next week be in a position to announce a joint arrangement with a company that may lead to Brain Functioning Monitoring being made available in all hospital theatres, which will greatly improve access and make it equitable for all patients in New Zealand.
The use of brain functioning monitoring may allow the anaesthetist to use fewer anaesthesia drugs while being comfortable that the patient is not aware. This can mean a faster wake-up for the patient and reduced drug costs.
Awake features Canadian actor Hayden Christensen as a young husband who wakes up during open-heart surgery but is paralysed by medication. The film co-stars Jessica Alba.
A recent study has shown 1 out of every 1400 anesthetised patient’s experiences anaesthetic awareness. Higher rates of recollection are reported in women, younger patients, and those receiving anaesthesia based on the use of opioid agents. Anaesthetists largely rely on physiological signs to manage the patient’s progress and recovery under anaesthesia.
Warmington said the use of brain function monitoring meant anaesthetists were able to more finely tune the depth of anaesthesia.
The new film focuses on a man who experiences anaesthesia awareness—a condition that leaves a person undergoing surgery aware of what's going on, sometimes even able to feel pain, but unable to scream or even move.
Anaesthetists wanted to allay public concerns before the movie inspired fear into people.

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