One huge development in the field of medicine that I'm very thankful for is anesthesia. I definitely would not want to live in the days when you went into surgery with just a shot of whiskey and something to bite down on.
Anesthesiology is actually a very tricky science, though. If you don't give someone enough, they won't be completely out. If you give them too much, well ... that's not good either.
That's one reason anesthesiologists are so highly trained (four years of training after medical school) and highly paid (the median income is $277,000). Unfortunately for them, their days could be numbered thanks to technology.
Johnson & Johnson is rolling out the Sedasys anesthesiology machine. It's in four U.S. hospitals already, and it looks like it could be a game changer.
Johnson & Johnson has been working on Sedasys since 2000. It doses patients with a fast-acting drug called Propofol and then monitors the patient vitals to regulate how much is needed to keep them under but safe.
The FDA blocked Sedasys in 2010 over concerns from anesthesiologists, but approved it in 2013. One condition for the approval was that an anesthesiologist had to be on call in case of an emergency. And it can only be used for colonscopies and endoscopies with patients that aren't expected to have complications.
That's actually a big deal for patients, since traditional anesthesia during one of these procedures can cost the patient up to $2,000, while Sedasys costs $200. Also, many smaller hospitals aren't able to have an anesthesiologist available for less important procedures, so doctors often use less powerful knockout drugs with worse side effects. Using Sedasys and Propofol, recovery is down to about 15 minutes vs. all day.
Johnson & Johnson, and other companies, are working on machines that could even work for complicated procedures like brain and heart surgery. The American College of Anesthesiologists is skeptical that humans could ever full be replaced, but like surgical robots it could be another tool in a doctor's arsenal.
Of course, that comes back to the question of how much you trust a machine. I've pointed out before that more than half of airplane crashes are caused by pilot error, but you probably still wouldn't get on a plane that didn't have one.
There's also the question of security. I just told you that some PCA3 drug pumps are incredibly vulnerable to hackers. You wouldn't want a hacker putting you at risk.
So, would you trust an automated anesthesia machine if you were going into surgery? Let me know in the comments.