Imagine you are anaesthetised but wake up the very second a surgeon makes his first cut. But in the drug-induced stupor, you can do nothing but hope the surgeons notice your sweat and tears.
This is not just an extreme hypothesis but a possibility. That’s why Professor GC Ray at the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur has developed an anaesthesia and pain monitor to measure the level of consciousness and pain felt by patients on an operation bed.
"This is the first equipment that can assess the level of consciousness and pain felt by a patient under anaesthesia," said Ray, who designed the monitor with Dr Gautam Das of the Phoenix Hospital and Research Center, Kolkata, and Proma Ray at the Georgia State University, Atlanta, USA.
Ray has applied for a patent to protect his innovation. "Administering anesthesia does not mean that the consciousness level becomes zero," explained Ray.
"Overdose or under-dose of anesthesia are both dangerous. If patients become aware that surgeons are cutting their organs, they cannot even speak or move to express it." The only reactions that can warn anaesthetists to take corrective action are the patient’s tears, sweat and a rise in blood pressure.
The equipment design began in 2001 and was successfully completed last year. The monitor is being tested for use at the Phoenix Hospital and at the Charnoc Hospital in Kolkata, supervised by team member Dr Das. Previously, the equipment was also tested on male and female volunteers during 10-30 minute long operations.
Ray has not yet transferred the technology and said he is disappointed with the lack of support from the IIT. "The technology is simple and uses inputs from measurements like ECG recordings of the heart’s electrical activity,’’ said Ray. "But the Institute has not encouraged the project."
Email GP Varma: gpv @rediffmail.com