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Home E-Weekly May 24, 2016

Monitor Patients' Pain While They're Unconscious

Published: May 23, 2016

Israeli researchers have developed a non-invasive method of accurately gauging the level of pain a patient is experiencing, even while he is under general anesthesia, according to a study appearing in the journal Anesthesiology.

By letting physicians assess the body's response to surgical stimulation, this method could help them better manage anesthesia in the OR, reduce pain during emergence and improve post-op outcomes, say the researchers. The method is based on the nociception (pain) level index, which uses an algorithm to monitor multiple hormonal and neurological reactions in the patient.

Traditionally anesthesia providers monitor a body's reflex responses, such as changes in heart rate or blood pressure, whether the eyes are tearing, and sweating, to determine how it's reacting to painful stimulation during surgery. However, these responses are often inaccurate or result in patient harm or post-op pain if they aren't adequately addressed in time.

The researchers used traditional anesthesia monitoring in addition to a non-invasive, pain-monitoring device to generate the nociception index in 58 anesthetized patients undergoing surgery. The index quantified patients' pain better than traditional monitoring methods during incision and other painful processes, and showed a decrease in pain once medication was administered.

"There's currently no standardized, objective method for physicians to monitor the effectiveness of pain-relieving drugs being administered during surgery," says Ruth Edry, MD, the study's lead author. "Not effectively monitoring bodily responses to painful stimulation can lead to insufficient amounts of pain medication being administered, which can result in the patient having severe pain upon regaining consciousness from anesthesia, while too much medication may cause other side effects such as nausea and vomiting or respiratory complications."

Kendal Gapinski

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