Tag Archives: Patient

Strange New State of Consciousness Could Exist, Researcher Says

By Bahar Gholipour via LiveScience

With anesthetics properly given, very few patients wake up during surgery. However, new findings point to the possibility of a state of mind in which a patient is neither fully conscious nor unconscious, experts say.

This possible third state of consciousness, may be a state in which patients can respond to a command, but are not disturbed by pain or the surgery, according to Dr. Jaideep Pandit, anesthetist at St John’s College in England, who discussed the idea today (Sept. 19) at The Annual Congress of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland.

Pandit dubbed this state dysanaesthesia, and said the evidence that it exists comes partly from a recent study, in which 34 surgical patients were anesthetized, and had their whole body paralyzed except for their forearm, allowing them to move their fingers in response to commands or to signify if they are awake or in pain during surgery.

One-third of patients in the study moved their finger if they were asked to, even though they were under what seemed to be adequate anesthesia, according to the study led by Dr. Ian F. Russell, of Hull Royal Infirmary in England, and published Sept. 12 in the journal Anaesthesia.

“What’s more remarkable is that they only move their fingers if they are asked. None of the patients spontaneously responded to the surgery. They are presumably not in pain,” said Pandit, who wrote an editorial about the study.

Normally, while patients are under anesthesia, doctors continuously monitor them, and administer anesthetic drugs as needed. The goal is to ensure the patient has received adequate medication to remain deeply unconscious during surgery. However, it is debated how reliable the technologies used during surgery to “measure” unconsciousness are.

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Changing Your Fate

steven_novellaby Steven Novella via Skepticblog

There is a cartoonish sight gag that I have seen multiple times – a patient lying ill in a hospital bed has some indicator of their health, on a chart or monitor. The doctor comes by an flips the downward trending chart into an upward trending one, or adjusts the monitor so the readings are more favorable, and the patient improves.

This is a joke that a child can understand, even if they don’t explicitly understand that the humor lies in the reversal of cause and effect. And yet more subtle or complex forms of this same flawed reasoning is quite common, especially in the world of pseudoscience.

Even in medicine we can fall for this fallacy. We often measure many biological parameters to inform us about the health of our patients. When the numbers are out of the normal range it is tempting to take direct action to correct those numbers, rather than address the underlying process for which they are markers. Medical students have to learn early on to treat the patient, not the numbers.

palm_225pxOf course when the underlying belief is magical, rather than scientific, it is hard to argue against just changing the signs so that the reading is more favorable. Since the cause and effect is pure magic to begin with, does reversing it make it any worse?

Apparently not – at least for those in Japan who still believe in palmistry, according to the Daily Beast. At least one cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Matsuoka, is offering surgery to change the lines in the palm of your hand in order to change your fortune. Living longer, therefore, is just a matter of extending the life line. Of course this is absurd, but is it really more absurd than palmistry itself?

Dr. Matsuoka does not make direct claims about the efficacy of his procedure, but does justify it with the placebo effect and anecdotes:

“If people think they’ll be lucky, sometimes they become lucky.”

There is some truth to that, actually. Belief in being lucky or fortunate does seem to lead people to exploit more opportunities because they are more positive about their chances of success. This reasoning could be used, however, to defend any superstition, and it’s difficult to measure the psychological benefit against the risks of being that gullible and believing in magic.

He also reports:

The woman with the early wedding line wrote to the doctor that she got married soon after he had performed the operation. Two male patients wrote to him that they had won the lottery after the surgery. His luckiest patient collected more than $30,000 (3 million yen).

Well, there you go. I have no way to counter these completely unsubstantiated anecdotes.

Now excuse me while I roll back the mileage on my car. It’s been acting up a bit lately and I’m hoping this will make it run more like it did when it was new.


[END] via Skepticblog

Does Reiki really work?

via Relatively Interesting

Reiki, a spiritual practice developed by a Japanese Buddhist in 1992, has developed into various traditions. reiki-healing-the-world_250pxSome call is palm healing, others label it hands on healing – bottom line, it’s complementary therapy and a form of meditation. That being said, Reiki stands out in the world of meditation – but why?

A traditional Reiki whole-body Reiki treatment would go like this: The Reiki practitioner has the patient lie down and relax on a massage table, and then helps bring the patient to a clear and more peaceful state of mind. The practitioner places his hands either on or above various positions and is kept for a few minutes on each position. The main areas covered by this process are the head, back and front of the upper body, the knees and the feet. A general treatment usually lasts 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

The practitioners believe they are “transferring universal energy (known as reiki) through the palms that allow self-healing and a state of equilibrium.” The process is energizing as a massage and there is a unique emotional/mental level of enhancement that the form of meditation provides. Reiki is unique for having its own array of formats and soundtracks.

Some hospitals have adapted Reiki principles in their programs to help cancer patients and other ill-bodied folk. reiki-hand_200pxThroughout the country, Reiki has become a regular practice for them. However, according to the American Cancer Society, “Available scientific evidence at this time does not support claims that Reiki can help treat cancer or any other illness. More study may help determine to what extent, if at all, it can improve a patient’s sense of well being.” Backed by the NCCAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) on that theory, Reiki has no scientific evidence to help anyone with anything. But then again, the art of meditation and massage has never been backed by science (other than for general relaxation and localized improvements, respectively) – it dates back for centuries and is based on anecdotal results rather than scientific research. There must be something to it; otherwise the tradition would have died down over the years instead of finding its way into modern-era hospitals.  That something is called “the placebo effect“.  Throw in a little confirmation bias, and a dash of  personalized 1-on-1 attention from another person, and you’ve got yourself an “effective treatment“.

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