Raising Awareness: Letter to the Editor of The Atlantic

ASA president John M. Zerwas submitted a letter to the editor of The Atlantic. His letter was published in the April issue of the magazine. The full text can be found below:

"While intraoperative awareness under general anesthesia is extremely rare, one case is too many. Over the past 20 years, anesthesiologists have been committed to minimizing the risk of awareness. The Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research recently issued $500,000 in grants to help fund research to clarify the role of brain monitors in the prevention of awareness. Although past research has shown deficiencies in recognizing awareness with monitors, researchers are currently applying new approaches and techniques to study consciousness, including those of Dr. Giulio Tononi, whom Joshua Lange profiled.

Before surgery, patients should meet with their anesthesiologist to discuss any past problems with anesthetics, including a history of awareness. Patients should also list all prescription and over-the-counter medications they are taking, so an anesthetic plan can be tailored to best meet their needs.

If you believe you have experienced awareness, please talk immediately with your anesthesiologist, who can explain the events that took place in the operating room. The anesthesiologist might also refer you to a counselor. Early counseling has been shown to be effective in coping with awareness. For more information, visit LifelinetoModernMedicine.com.

John M. Zerwas, M.D.

President, American Society of Anesthesiologists

Richmond, Texas"