It seems like something from a horror movie. A patient regains consciousness on the operating table during surgery and feels every cut and stitch of the procedure.

Unfortunately, such a complication – while rare – does occur in real life. That’s why both Bristol Regional Medical Center and Holston Valley Medical Center employ advanced technology specifically designed to reduce the risk of anesthesia awareness.

Bispectral Index – or BIS – monitors, state-of-the-art devices that measure a patient’s level of consciousness during surgery, are standard equipment in operating rooms at Bristol Regional and Holston Valley,

“We were the first health system in the region to use technology like this,” said Paige Dixon, Bristol Regional’s director of anesthesia services. “With the BIS technology, we can monitor a patient’s brain waves during surgery and reduce the risk of awareness.”

The issue of anesthesia awareness gained national attention earlier this fall when the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations issued a “sentinel event alert” urging hospitals to take steps to reduce the risk of anesthesia awareness. According to the JCAHO alert, as many as 40,000 surgery patients per year experience anesthesia awareness in the United States.

Use of electroencephalography devices such as BIS monitors is one step recommended by the JCAHO to reduce the risk of anesthesia awareness. BIS monitors allow anesthesiologists to continually assess a patient’s level of consciousness throughout surgery and make fine-tuned adjustments to the types and quantities of anesthetic drugs administered.

Use of BIS monitors not only decreases the risk of anesthesia awareness but also reduces the occurrence of post-surgery side effects that can result from too much anesthesia.

“With the BIS technology, patients get the dose of anesthesia they need,” Dixon said. “They tend to wake up faster after surgery and suffer fewer post-operative side effects such as grogginess and nausea.

“Patients appreciate getting home faster to their loved ones.”


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