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What is 'anesthesia awareness?'

It's a nightmare that many people have in the days before undergoing surgery -- waking up in the middle of it. Unfortunately, "anesthesia awareness" happens too often. Approximately two out of every one thousand surgical patients experience it.

Aside from the intense physical pain of waking up while your body is cut open, regaining consciousness while undergoing surgery can cause serious and long-term emotional trauma. One psychiatrist says that some people have flashbacks, nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

As one anesthesiologist notes, they need to find the right amount and mixture of anesthesia that will keep a patient sedated throughout a procedure without endangering that patient's safety. He says that sometimes "We can't give more anesthesia because their vital signs can't support it."

Anesthesia awareness is more common in some types of procedures than others. These include high-risk Cesarean sections and cardiac surgery.

Patients who have woken up during surgery describe a chaotic scene. One says, "The surgeon was freaking out with the anesthesiologist because he was running out of time." Another man who has experienced anesthesia awareness multiple times says that during one procedure, "I woke up as they were either drilling or sawing my skull, and it was kind of like an out-of-body experience."

Of course, many people who have experienced anesthesia awareness at some point have to undergo surgery again. It's essential to understand what happened so that you can work with your doctors and anesthesiologists to avoid it if you need to undergo future surgeries.

If you've experienced pain, psychological trauma or other harm because your anesthesia wore off before your surgical procedure was completed, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice suit. A California medical malpractice attorney can provide guidance.

Source: CBS New York, "‘Anesthesia Awareness:’ Waking Up During Surgery Can Have Long Lasting Psychological Affects," accessed April 21, 2017

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