An simple technique using local anesthetic mixed with magnetized"ferrofluids" may provide a new approach to preventing a rare butserious complication of spinal anesthesia, reports the June issueof Anesthesia & Analgesia, official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society(IARS). With further research, the magnet technique may provide a secondmeans - in addition to gravity - of preventing "high spinal block,"which occurs when spinal anesthetics spread to the upper portionsof the spinal cord. The preliminary studies were performed by DrRobert H. Thiele of University of Virginia Health Sciences Center,Charlottesville. |
Magnetic Technique May Permit Gravity-Defying Anesthesia Although very rare - occurring at a rate of about 0.6 per 1,000cases - high spinal block is a serious complication of spinalanesthesia. It occurs when injected anesthetics travel too high inthe spinal cord, interfering with the spinal cord fibers governingheart function. This can result in sharp drops in heart rate andblood pressure, with a risk of cardiac arrest and death. Anesthesiologists currently prevent high spinal block by modifyingthe anesthetic dose and by positioning the patient so that gravitydistributes the anesthetic to the lower portions of the spinalcord. "However, in certain instances, gravitational forces alonemay not be sufficient to control block height," the researcherswrite.
They evaluated a different approach: using magnetizedanesthetic fluid and a weak magnetic field to control the spread offluids. Dr. Thiele and colleagues created a simple model of the spine usingfluid-filled plastic tubing. They then prepared a local anestheticsolution with or without the addition of a water-based ferrofluidto magnetize the fluid. In this model, both fluids ran downward bygravity.
However, when a magnet placed outside the tubing, below the levelof the needle, it halted the downward flow of magnetized fluid. Infact, when the magnet was moved, the fluid moved "uphill," againstgravity. (A video demonstration can be viewed online.*) Dr Thiele and coauthors believe that a similar technique usingmagnetized local anesthetic solution and exterior magnets couldhelp to control the spread of spinal anesthesia during surgicalprocedures, thus providing a simple but effective additionalsafeguard against high spinal block. It might also be useful incontrolling the spread of anesthetics in other situations - forexample, spinal anesthesia on one side of the body.
Of course, much more research is needed before a conceptdemonstrated in plastic tubing can be applied in patients. Amongthe questions to be answered is the safety of the magnetic fluid -the ferrofluid used in the experiments is not approved for use inhumans, although magnetic particles are used in other medicaltreatments. Additional References Citations.
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