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The chitter-chatter of the brain communicating could hold the key to precisely dosing a patient’s anesthesia, according to new research from University of Cambridge. Monitoring brain patterns while a patient is awake can clue doctors in as to when that patient is unconscious enough to proceed with surgery. Here’s what lead researcher Srivas Chennu said about the findings, published in PLOS Computational Biology.

What’s the problem with the current way anesthesia is dosed?

Current approaches to monitor depth of anaesthesia vary, but they usually assess indirect measures like blood pressure, heart rate, physical movement, etc. While there are some brain-based monitoring systems available commercially, these are not widely accepted or used.  [Being conscious during surgery] continues to be a problem, affecting one or two of every 1,000 patients undergoing general anesthesia.

What do you think could fix this?

More accurate, principled techniques for brain monitoring and identifying drug dosage for each patient could help reduce this incidence of intraoperative awareness. Our findings suggest that an assessment of brain network ‘chatter’ at baseline before anesthesia could help predict the amount of drug needed more accurately. A continuous assessment of this brain connectivity as the drug is administered would help [the medical team] both track and also adjust the level of drug in the blood, and consequently, the true level of consciousness.


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