Volume 11, No. 4 • Winter 1996

ASA Meeting Exhibits Reflect Safety Interests

John H. Eichhorn, M.D.

Exhibits at the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Annual Meeting October 20-23 presented many products and ideas with patient safety themes.

In the Technical Exhibits, variations on existing themes dominated. Monitoring technology did not appear to have any major breakthroughs, but the incorporation of “smart” computers to calculate a host of derived parameters from basic vital signs obtained by a monitor was widespread and highly touted by product representatives.

There were 19 devices shown for sale that directly involved patient warming, including one that warmed the gas insufflated during laparoscopy. There were 12 “patient information management” systems heavily promoted in the exhibit hall. MRI-compatible anesthesia and monitoring equipment appeared to be much more common this year, as was latex-free equipment of all shapes and descriptions, apparently making it easier to avoid reactions in sensitive patients and anesthesiologists.

Noninvasive continuous cardiac output monitors were offered by three vendors with suggestions that the technology is becoming more reliable. One blood pressure monitor featured a small sensor that sits on the radial artery only. Positioning aids with reputed safety benefits were prominently displayed. Airway tools, as always, were ubiquitous.

New products included a video-guided insertion system for “myeloscopy” with spinals and epidurals, allowing direct visualization of the target spaces and also a hand-held quantitative capnometer that is as small as any ever offered and potentially useful in non-OR intubating situations.

Scientific exhibits dealing with safety related topics mainly concerned teaching tools, airway management, and simulators. There were many teaching displays, including one demonstrating a device to teach proper application of cricoid pressure. A headset camera on an anesthesiologist was used to make teaching and practice points about airway management. One display featured the characteristic waveform and spectral analysis of breath sounds. An intriguing display considered a device to automatically reconstitute dantrolene into solution as rapidly as possible in a crisis situation.

While the safety related products, displays, and exhibits were interesting and offered many valuable ideas, the major breakthrough to a new era of technology for patient safety is yet to come.

Dr. Eichhorn, Professor and Chairman of Anesthesiology at the University of Mississippi, is Editor of the APSF Newsletter.