MCG Health, Inc. Release: Anesthesiologists Discover Ways To Improve Patient Safety

AUGUSTA, Ga., Oct. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Anesthesiologists at the Medical College of Georgia and MCG Health System have evidence that tailored doses of anesthesia can dramatically improve the safety and quality of patient care during and immediately after surgery, and may even reduce postoperative mortality rates in the longer term.

MCG anesthesiologists James Mayfield, Steffen Meiler, and Alvin Head are presenting results from a study based on a yearlong quality improvement initiative in the hospital's operating rooms, including adoption of an advanced brain-monitoring device called BIS technology. The study, which will be presented next week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in Las Vegas, Nev., showed that by measuring depth of consciousness, BIS-guided anesthesia care enabled patients to wake sooner, respond quicker, experience less nausea, vomiting and pain, go home sooner, and have fewer postoperative cardiovascular problems. Before the BIS, anesthesiologists relied on vital signs to determine patient dosage. But these imprecise measures of consciousness often contribute to anesthetic overuse.

New research on the long-term effects of anesthesia and surgery further underscores the importance of tailored administration of anesthesia. Studies conducted in Florida and Sweden have shown that patients who experience deeper levels of anesthesia during surgery may have an increased risk of death during the first year after their operations. Though these studies are only correlative, they suggest the intriguing possibility that anesthesia care around the time of surgery can affect how patients do months and possibly years after their operation. Taking a long-term perspective to patient outcome is a dramatic departure from traditional safety initiatives, which typically focused on adverse events in the days immediately following surgery. Drs. Meiler, Head, and Mayfield were key participants at a recent multidisciplinary National Expert Panel sponsored by the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation to further evaluate the link between anesthetic management and patient mortality.

"We have gained tremendous insights in recent years of how critically important chronic inflammatory processes are in driving very diverse diseases in our surgical patients, such as coronary heart disease, some of the cancers, or even the cognitive diseases, like Alzheimer's. This places our specialty at a critical cross-road, prompting the question whether the acute and profound immune response to surgery, which we know to occur in our patients, can in some cases accelerate disease progression," said Dr. Steffen E. Meiler. "If validated, this 'Two Hit Model' of surgical outcome, as we phrased it, may open up entirely new pathways in the perioperative management and risk prediction of the surgical patient. I believe that avoiding excessive doses of anesthesia will be one important step in that direction."

With 30 million surgeries taking place every year in the United States, as many as 50,000 deaths could be related to long-term outcomes associated with anesthesia and the surgical experience.

"We believe optimal anesthesia care can dramatically improve the safety and quality of patient care, including reducing morbidity and mortality," said Dr. C. Alvin Head. "In the past, anesthesia patient safety initiatives have focused only on events that occur while anesthesiologists are actively involved with care. This new research suggests our focus may need to shift as the risk of dying during the first postoperative year may be as high as five to 14 percent in certain patient populations."

"MCG is committed to better understanding this correlation and has installed BIS monitoring technology in all operating rooms as part of a commitment to advance the quality and safety of patient care," said Dr. James B. Mayfield.

MCG Health System is composed of three separate organizations -- MCG Health, Inc. and the clinical services offered by the faculty employees of the Medical College of Georgia and the members of the Physicians Practice Group. The physicians of MCG Health System are community physicians, faculty employees of the Medical College of Georgia, and employees of the Physicians Practice Group, not employees of MCG Health Inc. MCG Health, Inc. is a not- for-profit corporation operating the MCG Medical Center, MCG Children's Medical Center, the MCG Sports Medicine Center, MCG Ambulatory Care Center, the Georgia Radiation Therapy Center and related clinical facilities and services. MCG Health, Inc. was formed to support the research and education mission of the Medical College of Georgia and to build the economic growth of the CSRA, the state of Georgia and the Southeast by providing an environment for faculty employees of the Medical College of Georgia and the Physicians Practice Group and community physicians to deliver the highest level of primary and specialty health care. For more information, please visit .

For more information, contact: Deborah Humphrey Director of Public Relations MCG Health, Inc. (706) 721-9177

Available Topic Expert(s): For information on the listed expert(s), click appropriate link. Steffen E. Meiler, MD

MCG Health System

CONTACT: Deborah Humphrey, Director of Public Relations of MCG Health,Inc., +1-706-721-9177, or

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