Canadian scientists develop automated anaesthetic system

May 3rd, 2008 - 12:52 pm ICT by admin  

Toronto, May 3 (IANS) Researchers at Canada’s McGill University have developed the world’s first fully automated anaesthetic system, nicknamed McSleepy. McSleepy administers drugs for general anaesthesia and monitors their separate effects all by itself, independently of manual intervention.

The automated technique was used on a patient who underwent a partial nephrectomy, which is the procedure for removal of a kidney tumour. The non-cancerous part was left intact in the operation that lasted three-and-a-half hours.

McSleepy assists the anaesthesiologist in the same way an automatic transmission assists people when driving. As such, anaesthesiologists can focus more on other aspects of direct patient care.

An additional feature is that the system can communicate with personal digital assistants (PDAs), making distant monitoring and anaesthetic control possible.

“Think of McSleepy as a sort of humanoid anaesthesiologist that thinks like an anaesthesiologist, analyses biological information and constantly adapts its own behaviour, even recognising monitoring malfunction,” said Thomas M. Hemmerling of Montreal General Hospital.

Hemmerling heads Intelligent Technology in Anaesthesia Research Group (ITAG), a team of anaesthesiologists, biomedical scientists and engineers.

“We have been working for the last five years closed-loop systems where drugs are administered, their effects continuously monitored and the doses are adjusted accordingly,” said Hemmerling.

The automated system measures three separate effects displayed on a new integrated monitor of anaesthesia (IMATM) - depth of hypnosis via EEG analysis, pain via a new pain score called AnalgoscoreTM, and muscle relaxation via phonomyographyTM, all developed by ITAG.

The system then administers the appropriate drugs using conventional infusion pumps, controlled by a laptop computer on which McSleepy is installed.

Using these parameters and complex algorithms, the automated system calculates the appropriate drug doses for any given moment of anaesthesia faster and more precisely than a human can.

“It will probably take two years to perfect the system,” Hemmerling said. “Many people are reluctant to rely on automated systems, especially when they are not visible - it is not clear what they are actually doing or how - the fear of a ‘black box’ which suddenly takes over”.

Hemmerling hoped that a commercial system might be available within the next five years.

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