Ritalin May Help Wake Up The Brain After Surgery


New research in the journal Anesthesiology shows that Ritalin, given to anesthetized rats, allows them to come around quicker than those not given the stimulant.

Dr. Emory Brown, a professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology says, “It´s like giving a shot of adrenaline to the brain.”

According to an MIT press release, there are currently no drugs to aid patients in coming out of anesthesia. The anesthetist just stops giving the patient the drugs and when the drugs wear off the patient is typically groggy for hours.

Dr. Brown said in the press release” “Our thought is you should try to do things to clear up your head as quickly as possible. The objective should be the return, as soon as possible, to the level at which the patient was before the operation.”

Dr. Brown notes that it is important for patients to return to a clear headed state quickly. It would allow them to make important decisions soon after their operations, instead of waiting for hours after the operation is completed. He also says that because of the expense in operating room costs, cutting down on the recovery time would help the patient to recoup some of the expense because extra time adds up quickly. At Massachusetts General Hospital, where Dr. Brown practices, operating room costs from $1000 to $1500 per hour.

Ritalin is the chosen drug in the study because it has already been approved for use by the FDA to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and will be easier to approve for this use, instead of inventing a new drug.

According to the press release, when Ritalin enters the brain, it increases the amount of dopamine available in the brain´s cortex. This effect sharpens the focus of ADHD patients and may have a similar effect on patients given anesthesia. Dr. Zhang Xie, who was not involved in the study, says that this is a significant finding, and that it might also be possible to design new drugs that act in similar fashion without the side effects that some patients endure with Ritalin, such as hypertension, hyperventilation and nausea.

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