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Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2001 Oct;14(5):483-90.

Anaesthetic management of neurosurgical patients.

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Department of Anaesthesiology, Technische Universit√§t M√ľnchen, Klinikum Rechts der Isar, Munich, Germany.


Anaesthetic care of neurosurgical patients increasingly involves management issues that apply not only to 'asleep patients', but also to 'awake and waking-up patients' during and after intracranial operations. On one hand, awake brain surgery poses unique anaesthetic challenges for the provision of awake brain mapping, which requires that a part of the procedure is performed under conscious patient sedation. Recent case reports suggest that local infiltration anaesthesia combined with sedative regimens using short-acting drugs and improved monitoring devices have assumed increasing importance. These techniques may optimize rapid adjustments of the narcotic depth, providing analgesia and patient immobility yet permitting a swift return to cooperative patient alertness for functional brain tests. Regional anaesthesia and peripheral nerve blocks were used to prevent uncontrolled movements in special cases of intractable seizures. However, few of these strategies have been evaluated in controlled trials. Awake craniotomy for tumour removal is performed as early discharge surgery. Meticulous consideration of postoperative patient safety is therefore strongly advised. On the other hand, waking-up patients or the emergence from general anaesthesia after brain surgery is still an area with considerable variation in clinical practice. Developments indicate that fast-acting anaesthetic agents and prophylactic strategies to prevent postoperative complications minimize the adverse effects of anaesthesia on the recovery process. Recent data do not advocate a delay in extubating patients when neurological impairment is the only reason for prolonged intubation. An appropriate choice of sedatives and analgesics during mechanical ventilation of neurosurgical patients allows for a narrower range of wake-up time, and weaning protocols incorporating respiratory and neurological measures may improve outcome. In conclusion, despite a lack of key evidence to request 'fast-tracking pathways' for neurosurgical patients, innovative approaches to accelerate recovery after brain surgery are needed.


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