By: 16 December 2015
New brain monitor makes sure you’re really under anaesthesia

New brain monitor makes sure you’re really under anaesthesia

Scientists in Australia have created a world-first device that monitors changes in brain activity during surgery to detect if someone is coming out from under anaesthesia. The brain monitor will help anaesthetists to adjust drug delivery as required, and make sure patients remain pain-free and unconscious while they’re supposed to be.

The team from Swinburne created a ‘brain anaesthesia response’ (BAR) capable of recording the brain’s electrical activity during surgery via three sensors placed on the forehead and behind each ear.

“Measuring how unconscious a patient is while they are under anaesthetic is particularly important, because if a patient is not completely unconscious they will remember the surgery, which can be quite a traumatic experience,” said David Liley from Swinburne University of Technology, who worked on the device.

“The BAR monitor has the potential to reduce the risks associated with surgical procedures, increase levels of patient care, optimise the use of anaesthetic agents, lower costs through reduced drug usage and in turn create a faster bed turnaround in the theatre and post-operative recovery rooms,” said Liley.

The device has already been tested on patients and commercially developed in conjunction with medical device company Cortical Dynamics Ltd, and has received certification from the Therapeutic Goods Administration – the regulatory body that controls which medicines and medical devices can be used in Australia.

A study last year [The 5th National Audit Project (NAP5)] found that roughly one in 19,600 patients wakes up during surgery – with the rates as high as one in 670 for certain procedures. Those numbers are thankfully quite low, but for those who do wake up during surgery, the experience is incredibly damaging, and can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and insomnia.