The drug Ritalin, prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may help patients wake up after they've been placed under general anesthesia, a new study in animals suggests.
Rats given the drug regained consciousness in about one-third of the time it took those given a placebo. If the same effect is found in humans, the drug would be the first safe and effective way to reverse the effects of general anesthesia, the researchers said.
"This offers a new approach to waking up patients at the end of surgery," said study researcher Dr. Ken Solt, an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "The current paradigm really is to just let these drugs wear off at the end of surgery," Solt said.
The drug could help rescue people who have stopped breathing because they have been given too much sedation, Solt said.
Waking people up faster after an operation might also save on health care costs. Use of an operating room can cost between $1,000 and $1,500 dollars and hour. Because about 100,000 people in the United States are put under general anesthesia every day "The incremental cost savings could be tremendous," Solt said.