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Br J Anaesth. 2001 Apr;86(4):513-8.

The auditory evoked response as an awareness monitor during anaesthesia.

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Wessex Institute for Health Research and Development, University of Southampton, Bassett Crescent East, UK.


We investigated the relationship between the latency of the Nb wave of the auditory evoked response (AER) and periods of awareness during propofol anaesthesia. In the anaesthetic room before cardiac surgery the AER was recorded continuously in 14 patients. Awareness was measured by the ability of the patient to respond to command using the isolated forearm technique (IFT). The Nb latencies were shorter when the patients were able to respond than at loss of response (P<0.001). In six patients who repeated this transition from response to loss of response, there was a high and significant correlation between Nb latencies. None of the patients had any recollection of events after the initial induction of anaesthesia as measured by explicit and implicit memory tests. These results suggest that the Nb latency of the AER may represent an indication of awareness in individual patients, but wide inter-patient variability limits its practical usefulness. In addition, because no evidence of memory was demonstrated, even when patients were known to be awake, the relationship between AER and memory processing remains unclear.

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