Detecting Awareness During Anesthesia


Sometimes, people wake up during surgery but cannot move or communicate. The problem is rare, but it leads to lawsuits, and it is always monitored for. I have a new method, patent pending, to let people in this condition signal for help.

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Posted by Marc Egeth under Healthcare

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Detecting Awareness During Anesthesia
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There are about 100 million general anesthesia surgeries per year worldwide, and about 20 million in the United States.  In about 1 in 10,000 surgeries, the patient "wakes up" but cannot move or communicate.   This is a terrible problem called "anesthesia awareness,"  and it occurs on a daily basis despite all current surgical monitors.   See anesthesiaawareness.com.

A new surgical monitor that can improve the detection of awareness during anesthesia would save many people from an agonizing experience and would save insurance companies and doctors from lawsuits.  Anesthesia awareness is rare, but, because it always needs to be monitored for, there is a potential market of 100 million operations per year.  The current leader in this market is the Aspect BIS surgical monitor. Aspect was recently bought by Coviden for >400 million dollars.

In my pending patent, I offer a new method for detecting awareness during surgery.  It relies on the fact that even though muscles cannot move thanks to the paralytic drugs, they still make small electrical signals, and these signals can be picked up by EMG, electromyography.  During EMG monitoring, a paralyzed patient will be able to make a signal, or even answer questions by *trying to move*.

A monitor that incorporates my new patent-pending method can be combined with the sorts of tools already built into existing surgical monitors, giving a new monitor an edge over current monitors.

The patent is pending and the theory of EMG-based communication, while scientifically strong, is not empirically validated.   

Here is my back-of-the-envelope estimate of the valuation of this idea.  There are 100,000,000 surgeries/year.  Medical methods are only patentable in certain countries, but this includes the U.S.  

Let's assume a net of $1/surgery;
divide by the probability that any particular patent application will be accepted (1% of patents are accepted); 
divide by the probability that EMG-based communication turns out to work (for these purposes I'll conservatively estimate a 40% probability, but if I had to bet myself I'd give it a 90% chance);
account for the number of surgeries in countries that do not allow medical methods to be patented;
account for some success in non-patent-protected countries; and  
multiply by the seventeen years a patent can be enforced and 
the length of time the business can succeed post-patent-term. 

I come up with about $8,000,000 for the pending patent as it stands.  What do you think?

Here is the link for the patent application: