You probably didn’t think caffeine had this benefit

Are you dreading even the most minor surgical procedure because of the way the anaesthetic might make you feel?

Luckily it seems that there is a way to speed up the wake-up and recovery procedure after surgery.

Caffeine may help patients wake up more quickly after general anaesthesia, an animal study suggests.

Strong drugs

According to Health24, general anaesthesia is required when there is a reason why other forms of anaesthesia cannot be used, or when the operation needs to be done inside the abdomen, chest or head.

General anaesthesia consists of three parts: narcosis, analgesia and muscle relaxation – and one of the side effects of these drugs is that they depress the patient’s ability to breathe, thereby causing the grogginess after surgery.

The study, led by University of Chicago researchers, was published online recently in the Journal of Neurophysiology.

Study done on rats

Adult rats were given a 3% concentration of a general anaesthetic for one hour to simulate effects of a brief surgical procedure. During the last 10 minutes of anaesthetic exposure, they received an injection of either caffeine or a salt solution (control group).

The experiment was repeated three times with increasingly higher amounts of caffeine. Each time, rats in the caffeine group woke faster than the others. At the highest dose, the rats in the caffeine group woke up 55% sooner than the control group.


It's important to remember that findings in animal studies frequently fail to produce similar results in humans.

A caffeine boost

The researchers said caffeine appears to shorten anaesthesia recovery time in two ways.

Caffeine boosts levels of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), a compound that regulates cell function. Previous studies have found an increase in cAMP levels speeds recovery from general anaesthesia, the researchers said.

Caffeine also acts as an adenosine receptor antagonist. Nervous system activity slows when adenosine binds to its receptors, causing sleepiness. Caffeine prevents this binding, according to the study authors.

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