In a study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, researchers discovered that use of methylphenidate (Ritalin), can help surgical patients awaken faster from general anesthesia.
Published in the October edition of the journal Anesthesiology, the results reveal that when rats were given Ritalin, they recovered from anesthesia much more quickly relative to the use of a placebo. In addition, while the test subjects were still receiving an anesthetic dose that would be adequate in sustaining unconsciousness, Ritalin was introduced and triggered signs of recovery within 30 seconds. Although certain drugs have been used previously to offset other forms of anesthesia, this study marked the first instance of the effects of general anesthesia being reversed by a medication in a safe and effective manner.
Emery Brown, MD, PhD, co-author of the study, stressed the significance of the findings, adding that, “If these findings can be replicated in humans, it could change the practice of anesthesiology – potentially reducing post-anesthesia complications like delirium and cognitive dysfunction in pediatric and elderly patients.”
Robert Goldstein, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Somnia, an anesthesiology management organization, commented, “Findings that have the potential to improve patient safety and outcomes have always been the foundation of anesthesiology research and this one should make all of us sit up and take notice.”
Equally important is the potential financial windfall if the study can be applied to humans. Estimated at between $1,000 and $1,500 an hour, the cost of an operating room can be considerable to the patient and hospital. By lowering a patient’s recovery time, a hospital will be able to provide anesthesia services in a more cost-effective manner.