The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Caffeine Wake You Up Quicker from Anesthesia?

Could caffeine wake patients sooner after an operation under general anesthesia? Rat research suggests this could be a benefit in the hospital.
CC0 from https://pixabay.com/en/doctor-surgeon-operation-650534/

Many people rely upon caffeine to get going in the morning or improve alertness during the day. Researchers have now found that caffeine might speed recovery from general anesthesia. Could caffeine wake you up after an operation?

How Does Caffeine Wake You Up from Anesthesia?

Sometimes surgical patients are slow to become fully conscious following an operation. This means more time in the recovery room and more nursing attention, so speeding this process can be beneficial.

Research in rats shows that injecting caffeine towards the end of the procedure can shorten recovery time by about 55 percent. The scientists determined that caffeine is working in two different ways to increase cyclic AMP in the body. This is the way in which it overcomes anesthesia-related sedation.

Fong et al, Journal of Neurophysiology, Aug., 2017 

Could speeding recovery reduce the effects of anesthesia on the brain? Scientists don’t know. Many patients would be happy to have caffeine wake them sooner after an operation, however. That would allow them to start healing and get ready to go home sooner.

No Caffeine-Withdrawal Headache?

One additional benefit: getting caffeine in the IV for recovery would also prevent the caffeine-withdrawal headache many patients experience. Going into surgery with an empty stomach means they must skip their usual morning coffee. For some people, that triggers a horrible headache while they are trying to get over their operation.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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    After surgery a few years ago, I drank not one but two Coca Colas. Normally, I do not drink “cokes” and very few other sugar colas.

    I remember how much I enjoyed the cokes, and now, I know they were beneficial also.

    The first thing I ask for after surgery is a coke for the caffeine so I can see where it might help. I have wondered the last few times if they actually used something like Narcan since waking has been much easier. I don’t react well to anticholinergics so I always ask that they use only a narcotic.

    * Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^