7 Things To Know About Anesthesia Awareness

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7 Things Every Patient Should Know about Anesthesia Awareness During Surgery


What Anesthesia Awareness Is and Steps To Take If You Experience It

  • In the past 20 years, developments in anesthesia have dramatically improved patient safety and comfort during surgery. But even though intraoperative awareness is rare, its occurrence can be very disturbing and traumatic for some patients.
  • Awareness can range from brief, hazy recollections to some specific awareness of your surroundings during surgery. Most patients experiencing awareness during surgery usually do not feel any pain. Some patients may experience a feeling of pressure.
  • Patients who dream during surgery, or who have some perception of their surroundings before or after surgery, may think they have experienced intraoperative awareness. But such a sensation or memory does not necessarily represent actual awareness with recall during the surgical procedure.
  • Some procedures are performed under local or regional anesthesia with modest levels of sedation. In these circumstances, deep unconsciousness is not intended, and patients will predictably have varying levels of recall of events and surroundings without experiencing surgical pain. Your anesthesiologist will clearly explain exactly what you should expect to experience.
  • Intraoperative awareness can occur in high-risk surgeries such as trauma and cardiac surgery, when the patient’s condition may not allow for the usual dose of anesthetic drugs to be given. In those instances, the anesthesiologist will weigh the potential for awareness against the need to guard the patient’s life or safety. The same is true during a delivery by cesarean section, particularly if it is an emergency delivery. The usual doses of anesthetic drugs may not be the safest for the mother or child.
  • Research shows early counseling after an episode of awareness is vital to lessen feelings of confusion, stress, or trauma associated with the experience. Alert your health care team as soon possible if you feel you had an episode of anesthesia awareness.
  • Patients should talk with their anesthesiologist before surgery to discuss all of their concerns, including the remote possibility of awareness during surgery. These physicians work to ensure the best possible care of patients in the operating room.


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The ASA does not employ physician anesthesiologists on staff and cannot respond to patient inquiries regarding specific medical conditions or anesthesia administration. Please direct any questions related to anesthetics, procedures or treatment outcomes to the patient’s anesthesiologist or general physician.