pediatrician listening to patient's heart

3 Important Facts About Anesthesia Awareness

Posted on 10/05/17 by Allied Anesthesia

ALLIED ANSWERS & INSIGHTS

Anesthesia awareness is what people often refer to as “waking up” during surgery. It’s one of the greatest concerns among patients scheduled for surgical procedures. And this makes sense considering the terrifying urban legends around anesthesia awareness. Those stories are enough to make anyone think twice about going under.

The good news is there’s no reason to be concerned. The following three facts should help you understand the truth about anesthesia awareness and the likelihood that it could happen to you or someone you know.

FACT 1 – It is very rare.

And we mean really rare. To put the odds in perspective, you are twice as likely to be born with 11 fingers or toes than you are to experience a sense of awareness during surgery. And here’s more to ease your mind: The studies analyzing the rate of occurrence include all instances of awareness.

That means everything from “I have a hazy recollection of seeing things” and “I felt pressure” to “I woke up all the way and remember everything.” The first two experiences are much more common than the last. And the majority of patients who report an awareness experience do not report feeling pain.

FACT 2 – Anesthesia cannot “wear off” during surgery.

Many people believe that anesthesia may wear off before surgery is over if the anesthesiologist gives a wrong dosage at the beginning of surgery. This misconception is due to a misunderstanding of how anesthesia is administered. First, the anesthesiologist gives a premedication to relax the patient. This is followed by an initial dose, which follows with continuous anesthesia throughout surgery. The patient is monitored the entire time and, if the need for additional anesthesia arises, the dosage is adjusted.

FACT 3 – Patients under anesthesia are not left unattended.

Fact 3 is related to Fact 2. Because the patient’s response to anesthesia must be constantly monitored during surgery, an anesthesiologist is present in the operating room the entire time. The doctor constantly monitors the patient’s vitals. These vitals provide signals indicating the need for a higher or lower dosage of anesthesia. This means that from the time the anesthesia is administered to the moment at which the patient wakes up, the anesthesiologist is by the patient’s side. This practice is one of the greatest reasons why anesthesia awareness is so rare.

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