Archive Anesthesia 2016

Have You Checked Out Anesthesia Machines Lately?

Today's innovative workstations are built for safety and efficiency.

David Bernard, Senior Associate Editor


anesthesia machines FACE THE INTERFACE Touchscreen graphics have replaced mechanical controls on many anesthesia machines.

The anesthesia workstation, once a simple stand with 2 tanks and a vaporizer, is now a high-powered command center with touchscreen displays, built-in monitoring capabilities and other sophisticated features that help anesthesia providers deliver the most efficient, safest care possible. Here's a look at a few recent innovations that have generated some buzz at the head of the OR table.

1 Digital delivery
One immediately visible innovation in anesthesia machine technology is the increasingly virtualized delivery of anesthesia. Many manufacturers' systems offer electronic as well as mechanical gas flow controls and mixing capabilities, with precision touchscreen displays joining the traditional knobs and buttons.

"The advances that have really brought the machines a long way are the graphics, which are now LED with few moving parts," says Perry V. Ruspantine, CRNA, APRN, clinical compliance manager for Anesthesia Professionals in Dartmouth, Mass. "They're easy to operate and able to perform checkouts quickly," providing, for example, visual information on the amount of oxygen required in the fresh gas flow, or the checks and balances that ensure patient safety.

These graphical interfaces are the user-friendly face of a technology that is now largely software-driven, an innovation that brings with it an increased flexibility. Consider this: Anesthesia machines have traditionally been marketed with a huge menu of optional functions and settings to serve every conceivable contingency. But the traditional advice to those planning the purchase of an anesthesia machine has been to forgo the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. "You don't need the bells and whistles if you won't be using them," says Gary Lawson, MD, an anesthesiologist at Adult & Children's Surgery Center of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers.

No need to worry about missing out on something important, though. Dr. Lawson notes that many of the latest options involve software, allowing post-purchase upgrades if necessary. "Machines can be interrogated and updated just like your iPhone," he says.

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