Home E-Weekly August 29, 2017

Can Caffeine Give a Jolt to Post-op Pain Relief?

Published: August 28, 2017

STIRRING Researchers say caffeine blocks the receptors for a sleep-regulating neuromodulator, thereby reducing a subject's sensitivity to pain caused by pre-operative sleep deprivation.

Sleep-deprived patients are likely to be in more acute and longer-lasting pain after surgery than those who get a good night's sleep. But researchers think caffeine may help to counteract the negative impact of sleep loss on post-op pain.

In a study published in the journal Sleep, researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor find that administering caffeine before surgery blocks the increase in pain hypersensitivity caused by sleep deprivation.

In their study, researchers conducted 4 experiments on multiple groups of rats, including those that were deprived of sleep before surgery, and those that were allowed to sleep for 6 hours before surgery. In 2 of the experiments, each rat received an injection of caffeine &mash; either intraperitoneal or intracerebral — before receiving a surgical incision on the paw, and was then assessed daily to measure the effect on post-operative pain for the next 6 days.

Results revealed that the sleep-deprived rats were much more sensitive to pain following surgery and took longer to recover (5 days) compared with rats that were permitted to sleep before the procedure (3 days). Also, the researchers found that the caffeine injections blocked the receptors for adenosine — a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating sleep — thereby reducing the effects of sleep deprivation on post-op pain. Interestingly, the caffeine injections reduced post-op pain only in rats in the sleep-deprivation group.

The researchers say it's not yet known if administering caffeine immediately after a subject's emergence from anesthesia can counteract the effects of previous sleep disruption on surgical pain. Also, they say further studies are needed to determine if pre-emptive caffeine injections are effective in subjects exposed to chronic caffeine intake.

Bill Donahue

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