How Common Is Anesthesia Awareness?

anesthesia bottle 2The frightening phenomenon of anesthesia awareness is a nightmarish one that is fortunately much more rare than you would think. In this phenomenon, a person under anesthesia is able to recall the events surrounding his surgery, while under sedation. Simply put, anesthesia awareness occurs when the medication that is given to the patient to sedate him before the surgery, fails to have the intended effect. In such cases, the patient is not completely sedated, and is actually aware of his surroundings.

In some very rare cases, the person directly feels pressure and pain. These are obviously some of the most severe cases of anesthesia awareness, and can lead to long-term anguish and trauma for the patient. In some of the most severe scenarios, the combination of medications that is given to the patient fail in varying degrees. For instance, medications that regulate sleep and pain control in the patient may fail, while paralytic drugs do not. This means that the patient may actually be awake throughout the surgery, and may even feel pain, but may be paralyzed and unable to explain or articulate this to the surgical team.

Anesthesia awareness is rare, but there are cases of less severe forms of anesthesia awareness that do occur. Medical estimates hold that approximately one patient in every 1,000 experiences some form of anesthesia awareness. In most cases, this is just a fleeting sense of awareness.

Some surgeries may involve a greater risk of anesthesia awareness. For instance, when a patient is undergoing an emergency cardiac surgery, it is not advisable to give a very deep anesthetic which means that some degree of awareness is possible.

Even though anesthesia awareness is an infrequent condition, the consequences are extremely real and severe. Patients who have undergone anesthesia awareness may experience post traumatic stress disorder, marked by anxiety, nightmares, and irritability post-surgery. The patient may also become preoccupied by death.

It is critical that patients who have experienced anesthesia awareness discuss their experience with the surgical team after the surgery to ensure that there are no other issues of concern that need to be addressed and that care is properly provided.

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries as a result of negligence by an anesthesiologist or any other medical personnel, speak with a medical malpractice lawyer at our firm. The attorneys at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy, LLP are ready to take your call.