Home E-Weekly March 9, 2010

Study: Anesthesia Awareness May Trigger Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Published: March 8, 2010

Nearly two-thirds of patients who experienced intraoperative awareness suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder 5 years after their surgeries, according to researchers who followed up with patients in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

"Long-term psychological follow-up should be offered to patients who report awareness regardless of their early postoperative psychological state," suggest the researchers, who published their findings in the March issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia.

The research team surveyed patients who'd experienced awareness during a clinical trial of 2.463 surgical patients designed to study the efficacy of bispectral monitoring. Seven of the 13 patients who'd experienced awareness were still alive, and 5 of them reported symptoms of PTSD, according to the article.

It's not certain, however, that anesthesia awareness caused the PTSD in each case, writes George Mashour, MD, PhD, of the University of Michigan Medical School in an accompanying editorial. The patients in the trial were undergoing potentially stressful high-risk surgeries and may have suffered from other illness-related factors. "Medical events, such as myocardial infarction, can be associated with PTSD," he writes.

Regardless, concludes Dr. Mashour, the high rate of PTSD "reinforces the need for preventing intraoperative awareness."

Kent Steinriede

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