Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists Monday 27 August 2012, 8:59AM
Media release from Australian and New Zealand College of
New research funded by the Australian and New Zealand College of
Anaesthetists has found no evidence that redheads feel more pain
than patients with other hair colours.
The Australian study, published last month in Anaesthesia and
Intensive Care, looked at the effect of hair colour on anaesthetic
requirements and recovery time after surgery.
Lead author, Melbourne anaesthetist Professor Paul Myles, said the
study was prompted by previous research that suggested redheads
were less sensitive to general anaesthetics due to variants of the
melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) gene.
"The implications of this could be quite important because it
suggests redheads may be at a greater risk of waking up during
surgery, as well as waking up after surgery too quickly and in
pain," he said.
The study looked at 468 adult patients undergoing general
anaesthesia for elective surgery. More males in the study had black
or brown hair, while a higher proportion of redheads were female
(72 per cent).
"We expected to find a small difference, with redheads waking up
faster after surgery," Professor Myles said. "Although there was an
apparent effect, it was not due to hair colour but to gender.
"We already know that women are less sensitive to general
anaesthetics and, once we accounted for gender imbalance, the
effect of hair colour was negligible."
Professor Myles said more research needed to be done in the area to
determine how the red hair gene variant may influence the way
anaesthetic drugs work.
"The basic science is quite compelling and is still likely to be
true," he said. "This is because the genes that determine both the
hair colour and pale skin of redheads probably influence how
anaesthetic drugs act on the brain."