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GAVIN'S KNOCKOUT IDEA; Prof invents device to end operation ordeals.

THE fear of waking up during an operation could soon become a thing of the past thanks to a Scots anaesthetist.

Professor Gavin Kenny is perfecting a device which can measure a patient's consciousness.

Latest research shows thousands of people may be awake during operations, even though they do not remember afterwards.

Professor Kenny, head of anaesthetics at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, has developed his device without major funding and largely in his own time.

Cash shortages have meant adapting an out-moded laptop, with an old 486 processor, and working through holidays.

But the equipment is almost ready for trials after six years of research on a shoestring budget of pounds 60,000.

A similar research programme in America, which is not as promising as the Glasgow system, has had more than pounds 5million ploughed into it.

Professor Kenny believes his Auditory Evoked Response device could be in use within five years and reassure hundreds of thousands of patients.

It works by sending a "click" into the patient's inner ear, stimulating brain cells, then measuring the level of electrical signals from the cells.

Professor Kenny explained: "It is a measure of brain processing power, which is suppressed when you give anaesthetic.

"It means you are measuring specifically how the brain is reacting."

Patients who experience "awakening" during an operation can suffer extreme pain depending on the cocktail of drugs they have been given.

Many may not be able to cry out because they have been given a muscle- relaxant.

That terrifying prospect may be more common than previously thought.

Researchers in Hull asked anaesthetised patients to squeeze their hand if they were awake.

A staggering 2000 signalled.

Last week, the family of an 11-year-old girl said they intended to sue Gloucestershire Royal Hospital after she endured a 90-minute ordeal on the operating table.

Christine Pockett said she was conscious but unable to speak as surgeons pinned her shattered leg with steel rods.

She added: "I felt my bones being pulled and there was the sound of very fine and tinkly metal. I could even hear muffled voices."

Hospital chiefs admitted it was possible Christine was conscious but said doctors "did everything right".

The uncertainty over how a patient will respond to anaesthetic is underlined by other researchers who believe foods like potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines contain chemicals which can affect drugs even when eaten days before surgery.

Professor Kenny said it was difficult to say exactly how many patients wake up during operations.

He added: "In their dream-like, sedated state they may imagine they were awake when they weren't."

The professor added that the lack of funding for his project was regrettable.

He said: "Ask the man in the street if he wants to be guaranteed to be asleep during an operation, or if he wants millions spent on molecular research.

"I know exactly what the answer is."
COPYRIGHT 1998 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:McLEAN, JIM
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 27, 1998
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