AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 2, 2020


Caffeine Shortens Recovery Time From General Anesthesia

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Stimulant promotes wakefulness through two different pathways


Caffeine helps quickly boost wakefulness following general anesthesia, a new study finds. The stimulant—used daily by more than 90 percent of adults in the U.S.—appears to alter physiological function in two different ways to shorten recovery time. 

Caffeine works in two different ways to wake us up. It raises the body’s level of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), a compound that regulates cell function. Previous studies have shown that an increase in cAMP levels speeds up recovery from general anesthesia. Caffeine also acts as an adenosine receptor antagonist. Activity in the nervous system slows down when adenosine binds to its receptors, causing sleepiness. An adenosine receptor antagonist is a substance that prevents adenosine—a compound that controls nerve activity—from binding to its receptors (molecules on the surface of the cells).

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