Your Brain on (Anaesthetic) Drugs

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Dudley waking up from general anaesthetic

My girl can get quite affectionate on occasions—especially after a romantic-comedy, or a glass or two of wine. During these trying times, I often indulge her forced cuddling just long enough to briefly fulfil her emotional needs, while maintaining my sanity. It’s a good thing I put up with her, as she recently found a small bump on my side. This little nugget quickly grew into a not so subtle lump and a bigger cause for concern. After a couple trips to the vet, we decided that, given its position and the rate it was growing, it was best to remove it. This meant that I’d have to go in for a little surgery and would be put under a general anaesthetic. As you can see, the after-effects were not pretty.

SO, WHAT IS ANAESTHETIC AND HOW DOES IT AFFECT THE BRAIN?

General anaesthetics rely on a cocktail of drugs that are usually used to induce and maintain unconsciousness in people and other animals during surgery. A commonly used anesthetic drug, Propofol, is a hypnotic drug that causes unconsciousness and lack of memory, or amnesia. Propofol binds to specific receptors in the brain, known as GABAA receptors, which are involved in controlling sleep and alertness. GABA, a specialised messenger, or neurotransmitter, normally binds to these receptors and acts to reduce cellular or nervous system activity. Once the drug binds to these receptors, it enhances or mimics the effects of GABA, which calms the nervous system and causes consciousness to fade. Propofol and similar drugs are usually given with some sort of pain relief medication, such as Ketamine. These drugs, at the appropriate dose, can reduce the patient’s sensation, e.g. pain, as well as affect their coordination and judgment.

There are risks associated with anaesthesia; on rare occasions serious complications and even deaths have been reported. But, for the most part, it is usually well-controlled and relatively safe when these drugs are administered by trained professionals. The side-effects of these comatose-cocktails are usually not permanent and can provide great entertainment before wearing off. I’m sure you’ve all seen a few hilarious videos of people waking up from various forms of anaesthesia, especially after dental procedures.

Speaking of which, my human decided it would be a good idea to get my teeth checked and cleaned while I was under the knife—you know, while you’re there… It turns out, the wildly entertaining side-effects of anaesthesia aren’t limited to humans. While my girl and all the veterinary staff found my post-operative antics hilarious, I was just happy to show off my new pearly whites.

Dudley showing off his new pearly white teeth

 

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