News About Anesthesia

If you’ve had anesthesia, you can likely thank this veterinarian who just won a top science prize

May 24, 2019 | Science

The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation has awarded its three annual prizes, regarded as the United States’s most prestigious biomedical research awards, to four researchers in fields including genetics and anesthetic drug development. The Laskers often precede a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: Since the awards were founded in 1945, 87 Lasker laureates have later gotten the call from Stockholm. John “Iain” Glen, a Scottish veterinary-anesthesiologist now retired from AstraZeneca, the biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Cambridge, U.K., won the clinical award for development of propofol. One of the most widely used drugs for inducing anesthesia, propofol is administered some 60 million times per year in the United States.

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The surprising (and Long) story of the first use of ether in surgery

March 30, 2019 | The Conversation

In the small town of Jefferson, Georgia, about 20 miles from the University of Georgia in Athens, a 26-year-old physician named Crawford Williamson Long removed a tumor from the neck of a man named James Venable while Venable was anesthesized with ether. The date was March 30, 1842. More than four years later, in Boston, Massachusetts, on Oct. 16, 1846, Thomas Morton, a dentist using ether, served as anesthesiologist while Dr. John Warren, a surgeon at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, performed surgery on a patient’s neck. A physician observer rushed the news to local newspapers and medical journals, and thus history was written – inaccurately.

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Having anesthesia once as a baby does not cause learning disabilities, new research shows

February 18, 2019 | The New York Times

A major international study provides new reassurance around the question of whether young children who have anesthesia are more likely to develop learning disabilities The issue has troubled pediatric anesthesiologists and parents for well over a decade, after research on animals suggested that there was a connection. Do the drugs that make it possible to perform vital surgical procedures without pain cause lasting damage to the developing human brain? Several large studies have found ways to tease out the effects of actual surgeries and anesthetic exposures on children. ... Dr. Andrew Davidson, a professor in the department of anesthesia at the Royal Children’s Hospital of Melbourne and one of the two lead investigators on the trial, said that this prospective, randomized design allows researchers to avoid many confounding factors that have complicated previous studies, and answer a very specific question.

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Anesthesia in early childhood not tied to developmental problems

November 5, 2018 | Reuters Health

Young children who had surgery under general anesthesia were no more likely than their siblings who weren’t exposed to anesthesia to experience developmental challenges that impair school readiness, a Canadian study found. Some previous studies suggest that the opposite might be true: that the developing brain might be injured by anesthesia drugs early in life, researchers note in JAMA Pediatrics. But much of that research has been based on studies in animals and in labs, not in children having surgery. For the current study, researchers examined data on almost 11,000 pairs of siblings, including about 370 pairs with both siblings exposed to surgery under general anesthesia and roughly 2,350 pairs with only one sibling with anesthesia exposure.

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Anesthesia, surgery linked to subtle decline in memory and thinking in older adults, Mayo study finds

July 19, 2018 | Mayo Clinic News Network

In adults over 70, exposure to general anesthesia and surgery is associated with a subtle decline in memory and thinking skills, according to new Mayo Clinic research. The study analyzed nearly 2,000 participants in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging and found that exposure to anesthesia after age 70 was linked to long-term changes in brain function. The results appear in the British Journal of Anaesthesia.

EDITOR'S NOTE: While the article carefully notes that "it is not possible to determine whether anesthesia, surgery or the underlying conditions necessitating surgery caused the decline," these findings add additional support to the notion that there are important opportunities for improvement in surgical and anesthesia care.

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