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PLoS One. 2014 Sep 29;9(9):e106291. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106291. eCollection 2014.

Electroencephalographic variation during end maintenance and emergence from surgical anesthesia.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, United States of America.
Department of Anesthesiology, Atlanta VA Medical Center/Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America.
Department of Anaesthesia, Waikato Clinical School, University of Auckland, Hamilton, New Zealand.


The re-establishment of conscious awareness after discontinuing general anesthesia has often been assumed to be the inverse of loss of consciousness. This is despite the obvious asymmetry in the initiation and termination of natural sleep. In order to characterize the restoration of consciousness after surgery, we recorded frontal electroencephalograph (EEG) from 100 patients in the operating room during maintenance and emergence from general anesthesia. We have defined, for the first time, 4 steady-state patterns of anesthetic maintenance based on the relative EEG power in the slow-wave (<14 Hz) frequency bands that dominate sleep and anesthesia. Unlike single-drug experiments performed in healthy volunteers, we found that surgical patients exhibited greater electroencephalographic heterogeneity while re-establishing conscious awareness after drug discontinuation. Moreover, these emergence patterns could be broadly grouped according to the duration and rapidity of transitions amongst these slow-wave dominated brain states that precede awakening. Most patients progressed gradually from a pattern characterized by strong peaks of delta (0.5-4 Hz) and alpha/spindle (8-14 Hz) power ('Slow-Wave Anesthesia') to a state marked by low delta-spindle power ('Non Slow-Wave Anesthesia') before awakening. However, 31% of patients transitioned abruptly from Slow-Wave Anesthesia to waking; they were also more likely to express pain in the post-operative period. Our results, based on sleep-staging classification, provide the first systematized nomenclature for tracking brain states under general anesthesia from maintenance to emergence, and suggest that these transitions may correlate with post-operative outcomes such as pain.

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