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The effect of hair colour on anaesthetic requirements and recovery time after surgery

Department of Anaesthesia and Perioperative Medicine, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Summary

Patients with red hair are much more likely to have a variant of the melanocortin-1 receptor gene and this may affect sensitivity to general anaesthetics and pain response. We did a prospective, matched cohort study of 468 healthy adult patients undergoing general anaesthesia for elective surgery. All patients received an inhalational general anaesthetic. Anaesthetic drugs and doses used, hypnotic depth, recovery times, pain scores and quality of recovery scores were recorded. More men than women had red hair, so we did subgroup and multivariable analyses to account for this imbalance. There was no significant difference in recovery times, pain scores or quality of recovery scores in those with red hair. After adjusting for age, sex, American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status and duration of surgery, the recovery ratio for time to eye-opening in redheads was comparable to those with black or brown hair, 0.82 (0.57-1.19), P=0.30. We found no evidence that patient hair colour affects anaesthetic requirements or recovery characteristics in a broad range of surgical procedures.

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