Research Digest

Lab notes: Lack of sleep can worsen pain after surgery but caffeine can help

A new study find the mechanism by which caffeine can reduce post-operative pain.

Doctors and medical researchers have long pointed o how essential sleep is for good health and how a chronic lack of sleep can lead to many health problems. Now, a team of scientists has demonstrated that sleep before a surgery plays an important role in reducing post-operative pain.

The researchers worked on the premise that the relationship between sleep and pain is reciprocal and that several studies demonstrated that pre- and postoperative sleep disturbances worsen pain and predict the onset of long-term postoperative pain.”

They set out to examine whether brief, total sleep deprivation in rats immediately before surgery worsens postoperative pain and increases recovery time, predicting that such a disturbance would worsen postoperative pain. After using a rat surgical model to test their hypothesis and on examining the data, the team found that extended wakefulness prior to surgery significantly enhanced postoperative pain behaviors in rats and extended recovery time after surgery.

But the team also wanted to examine if treatments or interventions could minimise the effect of sleep loss by reducing the severity of the pain. They decided to analyse the effect of the widely-used stimulant caffeine. They found that caffeine blocked the increase in surgical pain caused by previous sleep loss, but only on those rats that underwent sleep deprivation before surgery. This has led the researchers to conclude that the effect is not due to caffeine’s analgesic properties but because caffeine might block part of the neurochemical changes induced by sleep deprivation in specific brain areas that control sleep and wakefulness, and project to pain-related sites.

The researchers say that their results, published in the journal Sleep, are relevant because sleep disorders and insufficient sleep are highly prevalent problems in society. Patients also often travel long distances during nights or early mornings before being admitted into the hospital for elective surgery. Ad thus do not get adequate sleep before surgery.

The team says more studies are required on the subject.

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Snippets of wisdom on the health care industry by Dr. Kevin Lofton

His sessions stressed on the importance of patient centric healthcare.

At the Hospital Leadership Summit 2017, Dr Kevin Lofton, CEO Catholic Health Initiatives, spoke on the need to focus on patient experience, the role of the leader and shared some ideas from the practices of his own hospital chain. Here are some snippets from Dr Lofton’s presentation that will provide some food for thought. The Bringing Health to Life content hub contains his and many other insights and best practices for healthcare delivery.

The two kinds of willing patients

During the summit, a consensus emerged that the health care industry needs to learn customer centricity from other industries. However, the health care industry is unique in several ways and one of the fundamental differences is the nature of its customer. Dr Lofton spoke about how the customer i.e. the patient in the health care industry is different by way of motivation. He reminded the gathering that nobody willingly seeks out a doctor.


The paradigm shift needed in health care

Dr Lofton emphasised that patient centricity needs to become a part of the very philosophy of a health care facility, a philosophy that drives every action and motivates every employee in the organisation. He described this revaluation of purpose as a paradigm shift. Dr Lofton spoke about how patient centricity starts much before the patient walks into the hospital, that the patient’s tryst with the health care system starts before a visit to the doctor is warranted. In this clip, Dr Lofton provides an example of one such paradigm shift for health care providers.


At the 2017 Hospital Leadership Summit, Dr Lofton shared several such insights from his experience in the US health care system. He emphasised especially on the need of empathy alongside clinical skill among health care providers.

For more insights and best practices for healthcare delivery, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.