New research shows Ritalin, the widely-used ADHD drug, may be an easy and effective way to wake up patients from general anesthesia
PROBLEM: At the end of a surgical procedure, patients typically regain consciousness on their own as doctors simply let anesthetic drugs wear off. Studies have shown, however, that the state of general anesthesia is a controlled and reversible coma that bears little resemblance to natural sleep. While unconscious, patients are at risk of complications, such as delirium and cognitive dysfunction.
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METHODOLOGY: In a series of lab experiments, researchers led by Harvard Medical School professor Ken Solt administered methylphenidate (Ritalin), a drug widely used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or saline to rats that were previously given isoflurane, a general anesthetic.
RESULTS: The animals that received methylphenidate recovered significantly faster than those that received saline. Methylphenidate also induced signs of arousal, such as movement, in animals continuing to receive isoflurane at a dose that would normally have been sufficient to maintain unconsciousness.