Why hasn’t dad woken up after his heart surgery?

January 26, 2008

Sedation helps patients tolerate the uncomfortable bodily invasions of high tech intensive care. But when dad isn’t “waking up”, or just “isn’t himself”, many family members want to know whether sedatives are responsible for the prolonged problems with wakefulness, memory, and cognition seen in a significant number of patients who have received care in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Benzodiazepines like lorazepam (Ativan)(cousin:Valium) are inexpensive, effective and safe sedatives for this purpose, with very little impact on organ systems other than the brain (that’s a good thing).Flowers

Dexmedetomidine is a new sedative drug marketed as the more easily pronounceable Precedex™. It is cousin to clonidine, a blood pressure medicine that’s been around for many years, which also has sedative properties. Precedex has pain-relieving properties and can cause the heart to slow and the blood pressure to drop in some patients.

Because Precedex works in a different way to the standard sedatives (it blocks alpha-adrenergic receptors) there is hope that it represents a better option for some conditions and procedures. Could it have less long term effect than other drugs on the brain?

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Does anesthesia “fry” the elderly brain?

December 30, 2007

One of the most common fears of people undergoing anesthesia and surgery is that anesthesia will cause harm, even permanent damage, to the brain. The traditional view is that anesthetic agents are rapidly metabolized (broken down) and/or excreted from the body, their effects are readily reversed, and anesthesia is therefore unlikely in the long run to cause neurologic injury.

We know that anesthetic agents affect many aspects of brain physiology, altering blood supply to the brain, metabolism, neurotransmitters, cerebrospinal fluid production, and more. These effects are being investigated in the laboratory and through the use of special imaging techniques. The picture that emerges is as complex as the brain itself, and is sometimes surprising. For instance, certain anesthetic agents seem to protect, not injure, the brain – at least in animal experiments.

Your Brain on Drugs

More than 50 years ago, it was reported that some older people have brain problems after surgery, and recent research challenges the belief that a well-conducted anesthetic and complication-free surgical procedure is totally neurologically benign.

The term postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) has been coined to describe the mental changes, (in the areas of thinking, attention and memory) that do occur in some patients after anesthesia and surgery.

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