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Breakthrough in Intra-operative Awareness Discovered

Posted December. 11, 2008 05:33,   


Korean scientists have paved the way to treat intra-operative awareness, a unique physiological phenomenon that causes a patient under general anesthesia to wake up during surgery.

Kim Seung-hwan, a physics professor at Pohang University of Science and Technology, Roh Gyu-jeong, a professor at Seoul Asan Medical Center, and Lee Un-cheol, a medical researcher at the University of Michigan, said yesterday that they have detected the exact moment when a patient loses consciousness after being administered an anesthetic.

The results of their study were published in “Consciousness and Cognition,” a renowned global science journal specializing in consciousness.

When a patient under general anesthesia suffers intra-operative awareness, he or she recovers consciousness and feels pain. This situation has been featured in movies such as “Return” and “Awake.”

Utilizing the analytic method called nonlinear dynamics used mainly to identify complex physical phenomena, the researchers analyzed brain waves of 14 patients who underwent surgery.

In the analysis, they captured the moment the amount of information going from the frontal to the occipital lobes rapidly drops, which coincides with a loss of consciousness.

Existing brain wave technology only allows doctors to know if a patient is under anesthetic.

“Thanks to this research, we can pinpoint the boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness with figures,” said a source at Pohang University. “If we can identify the moment when a patient is put under anesthetic, intra-operative awareness will be prevented.”