One of the most fascinating things about working in medicine, and anesthesiology in particular, are the near-constant advances in medical technology and their implications for our work. While there’s no telling exactly what medical breakthroughs will occur in the coming months and years, some of the developments we’ve encountered recently are excellent indicators about where we’re headed this year and beyond.
Improving Sleep in Post-Operative Patients
If you’ve ever had major surgery, you know how difficult it can be to sleep immediately afterwards—especially if you’re in the hospital. Discomfort is a primary factor, but age, medication, anesthesia type, surgery type/method and environmental stress can also be factors. Trouble sleeping isn’t just an inconvenience—We need sleep to maintain our physical and mental health, and sleep is an important part of the healing and recovery process. A recent article in Current Opinion in Anesthesiology notes that there are pharmacological and nonpharmacological measures (like dim lighting, ear plugs, and eye masks) that can be used to promote sleep during recovery.
Using Data to Predict Outcomes
Doctors are scientists, and like all scientists, data is one of the most important aspects of our work. While vast medical databases have existed for years, only recently have nationwide databases been established especially for anesthesiologists’ use. The data collected by these databases help doctors document patterns across wide patient groups, enabling them to better predict outcomes in future cases. This data can also help healthcare providers identify rare but significant reactions or complications and respond to them appropriately. In order to be of real, lasting value, these databases will need to be consistently monitored for security and methodology, and the data itself must be validated, but their existence looks to be a promising one for the future of anesthesia.
Anesthesia Without Opioids
In an effort to minimize opioid use and the resulting complications, a movement around opioid-free anesthesia (OFA) is gaining traction. While opioids are incredibly important for pain management during and after surgery, they also have well-known adverse effects, including slowing down recovery and leading to long-term use or addiction. While comprehensive, multi-center studies are needed to better understand the risks and benefits associated with OFA, it’s definitely an avenue worth exploring.
Managing Chronic Pain
Chronic pain isn’t new, but given that more than 100 million adults live with it, it’s an important and ongoing focus in medicine. Defined as pain that lasts three months or longer, chronic pain limits your ability to work, sleep, relax, or eat. It also plays a huge role in mental health; studies show it is a prevalent factor in deaths by suicide. Most people know that anesthesiologists help manage pain before and after surgery, but many don’t realize that anesthesiologists specialize in the management of chronic pain. For example, at Allied, we have an award-winning pain management team that helps patients dealing with chronic neck and back pain.
Are there any recent medical advances you’re personally (or professionally) excited about? Let us know in the comments.