Recovery from anesthesia is somewhat random, dependent upon a variety of factors, like genetics or age that are beyond the clinician’s control. It would be extremely beneficial to be able to time recovery from anesthesia in a reproducible manner and to have that recovery be complete. Even though patients “wake” from anesthesia, there are still cognitive problems that persist for hours. Patient’s reaction rates are slowed and memory can be impaired. In addition, there are outliers; patients that wake very slowly after anesthesia. Seniors are especially vulnerable to anesthesia. As more elderly undergo surgeries, it is apparent that recovery can take a long time (days). Memory especially appears to be labile. If there were a reliable drug that could speed recovery from anesthesia, it would help the recovery of cognitive functions and memory. Ideally you would design the drug to be almost completely innocuous and very inexpensive.
A group led by Zheng (Jimmy) Xie (Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care), Robert Fong (Assistant Professor) and Aaron Fox (Professor, Neurobiology, Pharmacology and Physiology) published a human trial entitled "Caffeine Accelerates Emergence from Isoflurane Anesthesia in Humans: A Randomized, Double-blind, Crossover Study" in Anesthesiology, November, 2018. The result shows intravenous caffeine is able to accelerate emergence from isoflurane anesthesia in healthy males without any apparent adverse effects. Caffeine is probably the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world, used by billions of people. The clinical impact of caffeine use in reversing anesthesia induced unconsciousness actively will be further tested in future clinical trials. The study was supported by a NIH RO-1 grant to Xie and Fox.