Anyone facing surgery has several fears one of which is waking up during the surgery. There are several surgeries such as a caesarian, some brain surgeries or lasix that require the patient to be awake, however, during the majority of surgeries performed the patient is asleep. There have been numerous occasions where the patient wakes up during the operation, known as anesthesia awareness. It often occurs in the middle of the operation and the patient is unable to alert the surgeons, nurses or technicians due to the paralyzing medications given.
According to a study done by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, there are an average of one to two patients out of 1000 that wake up during surgery and the most were reported in children. Statistics have shown that approximately 30,000 Americans every year suffer with anesthesia awareness. The majority of patients will have brief memories of songs being played on a radio, surgeons and staff talking as well as are able to describe fear and pain.
The founder of the group Anesthesia Awareness Campaign Inc., Carol Weihrer of Reston, Va., reports that even several years after the surgery to remove her eye that was diseased, she suffers with post-traumatic stress disorder, has difficulties sleeping for more than brief periods at a time and has panic attacks. She can vividly recall the Doctor giving instructions to “cut deeper, pull harder” and she saw them cutting the optic nerve prior to everything going black.
Reports of anesthesia awareness are continuously surfacing, often times being dismissed as the patient only “feeling” as though they were awake but, cases such as Kathy LaBrie’s of New Hampshire are difficult to chalk off as unrealistic occurrences. She is able to repeat almost word for word the conversation between the surgeon and nurses regarding the kind of car the surgeon had. When patients are able to describe conversations, tools used and the songs playing, it is difficult to shove these occurrences under the rug as though they never happened.
Carol Weiher has spoken to a minimum of 4000 people that have suffered with anesthesia awareness experiences around the world and continues her mission to educate people about the after affects the situation can produce and there are new reports daily about the effects this situation has. Individuals have been reported to commit suicide due to the lingering effects of anesthesia awareness. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a popular occurrence for most after waking up during surgery. Individuals suffering with post traumatic disorder will continuously relive the experience that is haunting them. They have difficulties sleeping, socializing and living normal, happy lives. These individuals will be on medications and have to attend therapy sessions for several years if not a lifetime.
Though in very rare cases the patient cannot be observed as awake during the surgery by the anesthesiologist monitoring them, however, for 99% of those who suffer with anesthesia awareness, often times wonder if the staff or machines could have had prevented the situation. Equipment designed for monitoring a patients brain activity, alertness and awareness are continuously being improved upon and it is highly recommended that anyone preparing to undergo surgery speak candidly with the surgeon and anesthesiologist regarding the risks.