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    New Research: Spinal Anesthesia Not Tied to New or Worsened Restless Leg Syndrome

    By Jennifer Huddleston, staff writer      

    The findings of a recent study show that restless leg syndrome, also called RLS, is not caused or exacerbated by spinal anesthesia.

    RLS is a neurological condition with symptoms that include leg pain, uncomfortable sensations in the legs and urges to move the legs, all of which worsen or begin during periods of rest. [1]  According to Dr. Thomas Crozier, the study's lead author and an associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Gottingen Medical School in Germany, RLS affects up to 10 percent of the population. [2]

    Dr. Sam Awada, chief of family medicine at St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Warren, Michigan,
    said this new study was prompted by a 2002 study that found new, temporary cases of RLS that lasted for six weeks after surgery. Crozier noted that any new instances of RLS experienced after surgery likely have more to do with the procedure or being immobile during and after it. [3]

    "Our study was designed to test the hypothesis that spinal anesthesia would worsen the symptoms of restless leg syndrome," Crozier said. [4]

    Crozier’s study involved 359 patients undergoing surgery, 147 of whom were given spinal anesthesia and 212 of whom received general anesthesia. Of the patients in the study, 32 reported prior RLS symptoms. [5]

    Questionnaires completed by all patients before surgery and then again four weeks after surgery revealed no new instances of RLS or worsening of symptoms in patients who already had RLS. [6]

    "We think that it is important for people suffering from restless legs syndrome to know that there is, at worst, only a very small likelihood that spinal anesthesia, which is the best choice for a number of surgical procedures, will worsen their condition," Crozier said. [7]

    There is no single cause for RLS, but researchers have identified some triggers for the condition, including stress and pregnancy, heredity and conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, iron deficiency and kidney failure. Some researchers also believe that an imbalance of dopamine, a brain chemical that affects muscle movement, could be to blame.

    Awada said that more research is necessary to conclusively rule out a link between RLS and spinal anesthesia. [9]

    The findings of the study are published in the Nov. 20, 2008, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

    [1] The RLS Foundation.
    [2] Spinal Anesthesia Doesn't Cause Restless Leg Syndrome.” HealthDay. Nov. 19, 2008.
    [3]  Ibid .
    [4]  Ibid .
    [5]  Ibid .
    [6]  Ibid .
    [7]  Ibid .
    [8] The Mayo Clinic.
    [9] Spinal Anesthesia Doesn't Cause Restless Leg Syndrome.” HealthDay. Nov. 19, 2008.

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