January 22, 2013
As the patient lies on the examination table it seems as if everything is going as planned. General anesthesia has been administrated and the patient has lost all feeling in his or her body, the ability to remember has been knocked out, and the muscles have been paralyzed. Not until surgery is done however will the doctor know just how well the anesthesia worked on the patient. Anesthesia awareness is a rare occurrence when the patient is given the drug, but it doesn’t completely take over their body. They lay paralyzed, able to recall the noises being made around them and the dialogue between the doctor and his or her colleagues. Also, in very rare cases, patients might even be able to feel the procedure happening.
“Every word is heard, every cut is felt,” says Robert Davis in an article in the USA Today newspaper. More than 40 million patients receive anesthesia each year in North America (Orser, Mazer, & Baker par. 1). It’s hard to say how many patients fall into the percentage of anesthesia awareness exactly due to the fact that not all of them will notify their doctor about their dilemma. For rough numbers it is said that around one to four per thousand patients are found to have had some type of awareness during surgery (Anesthesia Awareness Registry sec. 5). Surgery is always risky. Some surgeries like the caesarean section, cardiac surgery, and trauma surgery, (Koval) are more susceptible to anesthesia awareness. This is due to the fact that some procedures cannot tolerate a large amount of anesthetic in the patient’s body, but more is needed. In some cases it is necessary to give fewer drugs during anesthesia if there are problems or implications which can cause awareness (Anesthesia Awareness Registry sec. 4). In other rare instances, technical failure or human error may contribute to unexpected episodes of awareness (American Society of Anesthesiologist 2). The risk of...