Researchers advise the use of anaesthesia in foetuses from 21 weeks of gestation

March 16, 2018

Although the problem of whether foetuses are able to feel pain or not is still controversial, experts at the University Hospital Virgen del Rocío in Seville have recently published a study in which they confirm that from the second trimester of pregnancy, the future baby already shows signs of pain when given a harmful stimulus or as a response to stress. In response to this confirmation, the researchers indicate the need to anaesthetise the foetus during open foetal surgery, OFS.

There is a school of thought that believes that in the case of foetal interventions, it is sufficient to administer anaesthesia to the mother as this passes through the foetus through the umbilical cord. Now, the experts have shown that this might not be sufficient and that from 21 weeks, the foetus can feel pain, so it also needs to be anaesthetised.

"At the Hospital Virgen del Rocío, we have spent a decade doing open foetal surgery. In 2007, we did the first intrauterine spina bifida operation in Europe, and in only one case was the foetus unable to receive intravenously administered anaesthesia from the start of the operation. It was at that moment that our monitoring teams detected anomalies in the behaviour of the foetus, which led us to believe that this was effectively a reaction to the stress caused by the pain. We quickly out in place the anaesthesia protocol and the spinal reconstruction was possible and the post-op period passed without any problems", explains Doctor Javier Márquez Rivas, Heat of the Infant Neurosurgery Unit and the Neurosurgery Service at the hospital.

For her part, Doctor María J. Mayorga Buiza, paediatric anaesthetist and first signatory of the article, adds that one of the key aspects of anaesthesia in open foetal surgery is to help uterine relaxation, to keep foetal circulation stable and, once surgery is complete, to offer adequate management of the patient to avoid contractions among other complications, which helps to reduce the incidence of premature birth in these cases.

Open foetal surgery (OFS) is still a serious procedure for the mother and the foetus. In such cases, anaesthesia given directly to the foetus can be provided by different means, but in the opinion of these experts, direct administration is "obligatory" for reduce foetal stress and also release the incidence of foetal mortality.

Even though current models do not prove the perception of foetal pain before the third trimester and there is little evidence of the effectiveness of direct foetal analgesic and anaesthetic techniques, it is a confirmed fact that foetal mortality is higher than 20% in the case of non-anaesthetised foetuses. This rate drops to 0% in operations carried out until now at the University Hospital Virgen del Rocío in Seville.

"The response of foetal stress to harmful stimulation that our monitoring teams observed in this case, does not completely prove that the foetus can feel pain. However, it is very improbable that there can be a perception of pain without a response to stress, and so these signals are often used as a substitute pain indicator", explains the University of Seville researcher and co-author of this study, The Applied Physics professor Emilio Gómez González.

The research team that Professor Gómez Gonzalez leads works on the development of optical and neurophotonic techniques which are capable of evaluating the state and characteristics of the areas where surgery is taking place during complicated procedures.

"To advance in the area of anaesthesia is to advance in surgery. Formerly, there were patients who died from pain, therefore, the better our knowledge and training in anaesthesia and the greater the abilities of the monitoring teams, the more complex surgery can be", states Doctor Mayorga Buiza.
-end-


University of Seville

Related Stress Articles from Brightsurf:

Stress-free gel
Researchers at The University of Tokyo studied a new mechanism of gelation using colloidal particles.

Early life stress is associated with youth-onset depression for some types of stress but not others
Examining the association between eight different types of early life stress (ELS) and youth-onset depression, a study in JAACAP, published by Elsevier, reports that individuals exposed to ELS were more likely to develop a major depressive disorder (MDD) in childhood or adolescence than individuals who had not been exposed to ELS.

Red light for stress
Researchers from the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo have created a biphasic luminescent material that changes color when exposed to mechanical stress.

How do our cells respond to stress?
Molecular biologists reverse-engineer a complex cellular structure that is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS

How stress remodels the brain
Stress restructures the brain by halting the production of crucial ion channel proteins, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

How plants handle stress
Plants get stressed too. Drought or too much salt disrupt their physiology.

Stress in the powerhouse of the cell
University of Freiburg researchers discover a new principle -- how cells protect themselves from mitochondrial defects.

Measuring stress around cells
Tissues and organs in the human body are shaped through forces generated by cells, that push and pull, to ''sculpt'' biological structures.

Cellular stress at the movies
For the first time, biological imaging experts have used a custom fluorescence microscope and a novel antibody tagging tool to watch living cells undergoing stress.

Read More: Stress News and Stress Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.