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Common stimulant may speed recovery from general anesthesia
Date:9/21/2011

Administration of the commonly used stimulant drug methylphenidate (Ritalin) was able to speed recovery from general anesthesia in an animal study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The report, appearing in the October issue of Anesthesiology, is the first demonstration in mammals of what could be a safe and effective way to induce arousal from general anesthesia. While there are drugs to counteract many of the agents used by anesthesiologists such as pain killers and muscle relaxants until now there has been no way to actively reverse the unconsciousness induced by general anesthesia.

"Currently at the end of a surgical procedure, the anesthesiologist just lets general anesthetic drugs wear off, and the patient regains consciousness," says Emery Brown, MD, PhD, of the MGH Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, senior author of the paper. "If these findings can be replicated in humans, it could change the practice of anesthesiology potentially reducing post-anesthesia complications like delirium and cognitive dysfunction in pediatric and elderly patients."

General anesthesia has been an essential tool of medicine since it was first demonstrated at the MGH in 1846, but only in recent years have researchers begun to investigate the neurobiology of general anesthesia and to understand exactly how anesthetic drugs produce their effects. Studies by Brown and other scientists have shown that the state of general anesthesia is actually a controlled and reversible coma and bears little similarity to natural sleep. Several neurotransmitter pathways in the brain are known to be generally involved in arousal, but which ones may contribute to recovery from general anesthesia is not yet known.

The stimulant drug methylphenidate, widely used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is known to affect arousal-associated pathways controlled by the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrin
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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