HEALTHLINE (MEDSTAR) -- General anesthesia drugs keep patients from feeling pain during surgery. But some patients report discomfort hours after they wake up from the procedure. Doctors never knew what caused it - until now. Vince sherry reports on the research and the unusual suspect.
An anesthesiologist is in charge of patient comfort during surgery - providing just the right mix of drugs so you don't feel the pain.
"For some patients, one drug is more indicated than others. But for many patients, it's acceptable to choose from any number of either of these classes of drugs," says Brian Freeman, M.D.
The drugs are effective, but they can cause problems for some patients.
"Anesthetics are great drugs. They make you unconscious so we can perform surgery. But many of them cause an irritation when they're administered to patients and so we wanted to know how they do that," says Gerard Ahern, PH.D.
Interestingly enough, Georgetown researchers found that certain anesthesia drugs activate the body's 'mustard oil' receptor.
"This receptor is expressed in the peripheral nerves, the pain-sensing nerves found throughout the body," says Gerard Ahern, PH.D.
It's the same pain receptor that reacts when you eat pungent foods like garlic and wasabi - a japanese horseradish. The finding is the first to scientifically explain the anesthesia side-effect and it could lead to new less-irritating drugs.
"We're trying to identify how the anesthetics do activate these pain receptors and maybe tinker with some of the anesthetic molecules themselves to see if we can create ones that don't have this side effect," says Gerard Ahern, PH.D.
Less post-surgery pain could make for a smoother recovery. This is Vince Sherry reporting.