Applying algorithms to anesthesia

Mark Ansermino (on left) is an anesthesiologist, whose job is to protect patients from pain or complications during surgery. Guy Dumont (on right) is an electrical engineer, whose specialty is control processes for wood pulp processing. Not a whole lot in common — at first glance. But these two UBC professors have been working together for years to make anesthesia safer through computing. One of their inventions precisely and instantly calibrates the amount of anesthesia to a patient’s level of consciousness. Another invention looks for patterns coming from more than 70 different sensors, teasing out signs of danger. They have even developed a vibrating belt that converts the data and warnings into something the anesthesiologist can feel, as well as as see on a monitor or hear through an audible alarm. Now Dr. Ansermino and Dr. Dumont are turning their attention to the developing world, where monitoring of patients under anesthesia is often limited to keeping a finger on someone’s pulse. Their work earned them the prestigious Brockhouse Canada Prize, which recognizes collaborations between scientists in engineering and the natural sciences. Read more about their work in the spring issue of UBC Medicine magazine.

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