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Brain Monitor Ensures You Aren't Aware While Under Anesthetic

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Tom Hale

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Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

2940 Brain Monitor Ensures You Aren't Aware While Under Anesthetic
Army Medicine/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

To be awake yet paralyzed while under general anesthetic is the stuff of nightmares and cheap horror films. Thankfully, a device called the Brain Anaesthesia Response (BAR) monitor can measure brain activity while under anesthetic to help avoid this distressing ordeal.

"Anesthetic Awareness" occurs when the cocktail of drugs used to anesthetize a patient undergoing surgery is not administered in the right quantities, causing the patient to be paralyzed but also sometimes aware of the pain. However, if anesthesiologists use this new monitor, they can measure the brain's response to the anesthetic and make adjustments to the drug amounts as needed.

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The device, which has been developed by the Swinburne University of Technology in partnership with the Cortical Dynamics Ltd, monitors changes in brain activity using electroencephalogram (EEG) technologies that measure the rhythmic electrical activity of the brain.

"Measuring how unconscious a patient is while they are under anesthetic is particularly important, because if a patient is not completely unconscious they will remember the surgery, which can be quite a traumatic experience," said Professor David Liley, who helped develop the device, in a statement.

Previous studies have estimated that anesthetic awareness happens during roughly one in 19,600 surgeries, with nearly half experiencing emotional distress and long-term psychological harm from it.

For Professor Liley, the device is a milestone for patient care and health services: “The BAR Monitor has the potential to reduce the risks associated with surgical procedures, increase levels of patient care, optimize the use of anesthetic agents, lower costs through reduced drug usage and in turn create a faster bed turnaround in the theatre and post-operative recovery rooms."

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The device has already been certified by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), a regulatory agency for medical drugs and devices, so it could become a staple of surgical technology in the not too distant future. 

Main image credit: Army Medicine/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0).

Read this next: Study Claims People Who Like Their Coffee Black Are More Likely To Have Psychopathic Tendencies


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