All surgery patients are warned to expect some pain after their operation, and no one is expected to undergo their selected procedure without anesthesia. However, it may be the anesthesia itself that makes post-surgery pain worse than it would otherwise be.
It is already known in the medical community that some anesthesia drugs can cause pain in the lungs or at the injection site, which anesthesiologists counteract with preemptive drugs; and it was widely believed that the pain was temporary. However, according to a Georgetown University Medical Center study, the noxious chemicals in general anesthesia can activate the nerves the recognize pain and trigger inflammation, creating an effect that lasts long after the surgery itself.
Specifically, the kind of nerve that becomes sensitized by the chemicals is called TRPA1, or the “mustard oil receptor,” which causes burning pain. The researchers found that mice genetically engineered to the lack TRPA1 nerve cells showed no anesthesia-prompted pain.
A possible solution would be an anesthesiologist’s choice to use sevoflurane, an anesthesia drug devoid of the noxious chemicals in question. The researchers hope that further testing on humans will make this and other options a priority.
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