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Surgical IT

Canadians invent automated anesthesiologist

MONTREAL – Canadian physicians have invented an automated anesthesiology machine to administer drugs to patients undergoing surgery. Scientists at McGill University in Montreal believe they are the first in the world to perform surgery with such a device, which not only dispenses the drugs but monitors their effect on the patients.

“Anesthesiologists when they are in the operating room actually have two jobs,” Dr. Thomas Hemmerling of McGill University and the Universite de Montreal told CTV’s Canada AM.

“First, obviously they look at the vital signs, and there are all sorts of parameters, which are circulation, breathing and they install the breathing machine. And then they actually provide general anesthesia, which has three components, meaning that we make you unconscious, pain-free and relax your muscles. And that job now is done by McSleepy.”

The researchers have dubbed the machine McSleepy as a nod to the hunky doctors on the TV series “Grey’s Anatomy” who have been nicknamed McDreamy and McSteamy. Dr. Hemmerling said that the job of an anesthesiologist is misrepresented on the show.

“There’s a shocking absence of anesthesiologists. And when they’re there, they are either drunk or get out of the room when it gets dicey. And that’s not reality,” Dr. Hemmerling said.

“Reality means that surgeons and anesthesiologists work as a team, independently but quite equal, and we take care and have an impact on post-surgical outcome.”

The computerized machine can administer three separate drugs that are commonly used to sedate patients, control pain and relax muscles for surgery. It can calculate the right dose needed for each patient, and monitor the patient’s response to the drugs as the surgery goes on.

Dr. Hemmerling said that McSleepy will not replace the anesthesiologist in the operating room, it will just make the job easier. “Think of it as an automatic transmission. The anesthesiologist still drives the car, but has more focus on the traffic and the kids in the backseat,” Hemmerling said.

The machine, which took about five years to develop, has been tested during seven operations, but it will need to be tested on thousands more before the researchers can get Health Canada’s stamp of approval.