Date Published: 4 December 2005

Bristol cardiac team develops new anaesthetic technique to help children

Health News from Bristol, England (UK).

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The Paediatric Cardiac Team at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children has developed a pioneering technique to help babies recover faster after open heart surgery.

In the first study of its kind, doctors found that a new method for delivering anaesthetic could help protect babies' organs from damage by reducing the stress and inflammation they often suffer during this kind of operation.

Professor Andrew Wolf, senior lecturer at the University of Bristol and consultant in paediatric cardiac anaesthesia, together with the Bristol Paediatric Cardiac Unit team, conducted a random trial on 60 newborn babies and infants undergoing major surgery.

They used a special catheter to deliver a large dose of local anaesthetic around the spinal cord during surgery, anaesthetising the entire central nervous system.

This was the first time a 'continuous spinal catheter' technique had been used in paediatric cardiac surgery.

By avoiding high doses of morphine like drugs which slow postoperative recovery, the technique allows rapid recovery and reduced stay in the intensive care unit.

Professor Wolf said,

" We have used epidural techniques before in non-cardiac surgery but the catheter technique combined with the high doses of spinal anaesthetic to the central nervous system are the first reported trial worldwide.

_ The results have shown a reduction in stress together with improved organ function after surgery while the delivery of pain-relieving drugs through the catheter after surgery allows faster recovery.

_ This work further places the Bristol Paediatric Cardiac Unit at the leading edge not only of quality and outcome, but also of research and development."

The results of the trial have been published in the American anaesthesia journal, Anesthesiology.

Source: Bristol University, England (UK)

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