Women Wake Up Faster -- From Anesthesia
Women wake up faster from general anesthesia than men according to the medical journal Anesthesiology. This was the first study to illustrate this fascinating phenomenon.
Recovery from general anesthesia has long been known to be affected by many factors. However, gender has never been recognized as one of the factors that influences the time a patient takes to emerge from general anesthesia.
The conclusion that women wake faster from anesthesia seems quite convincing for the following reasons:
The lead author of the report, Dr. Tong J. Gan from Duke, told MedicineNet that he and his fellow investigators found that women wake up faster from general anesthesia by serendipity -- purely by accident!
The times from the end of anesthesia to eye opening and to a response to a verbal command were significantly different between men and women, meaning these differences were unlikely to be due to chance.
Men consistently had prolonged recovery times from anesthesia compared to women, supporting the principle that men and women differ in their sensitivity to anesthesia.
Although the anesthesia used in this study involved 3 agents -- propofol, alfentanil, and nitrous oxide -- the sedative propofol seems to be the agent responsible for the gender difference.
The molecular basis for this new difference between the sexes is still unknown. This type of difference between the sexes (termed a sexual dimorphism) appears to be a matter of pharmacogenetics -- genetic factors influencing the sensitivity to a drug.
The discovery that women awaken faster from general anesthesia than men may also explain why the incidence of awareness during surgery is reportedly higher in women. Women may awaken during surgery at higher concentrations of propofol and perhaps other anesthetic agents than men.
Source: Women emerge from propofol/alfentanil/nitrous oxide anesthesia faster than men. Gan TJ, Glass PS, Sigl J, Sebel P, Payne F, Rosow C, Embree P. Anesthesiology 90: 1283-87, 1999.
Last Editorial Review: 10/28/2004