Anesthesia awareness or being “awake” during surgery is what many people call their worst nightmare. It’s a state of semi-consciousness where you are alert enough to hear conversations, see the lights, hear the music that the surgeon uses during surgery, you may even feel them touch your hand or smell the smells of the operating room. Some people even feel excruciating pain during surgery but are unable to express this to the physicians.
People usually describe it as feeling “paralyzed”. It isn’t uncommon for people to panic once they realize that they are in surgery and are listening to the surgeon and other operating room attendants talking. Many people have said they were actually screaming for the doctors to hear them, but, their mouths didn’t move and no sound came out. There have even been some who reported sitting up on the operating table and looking at the monitors just before being quickly put back to sleep.
Anesthesia awareness can occur in high-risk surgeries such as trauma and cardiac surgery in which the patient’s condition does not allow for the usual dose of anesthetics to be given. Women who have a cesarean section done during delivery of their baby usually have a relatively low dose of anesthetic due to the fact that it many not be safe for the baby to administer the medications at higher doses.
Overall, surgery is safe and anesthesia awareness is relatively rare and the chances of it happening to you are quite low. Most people can only remember talking to the anesthesiologist as they administer the sedative drugs and then waking up without any recollection at all of what happened during the surgery.
When anesthesia awareness does occur, people often describe it as a life-altering, traumatic experience and many people have suffered post-traumatic distress afterwards.
There have been people who actually committed suicide after a surgery because of the trauma experienced.
Many have said they no longer can go to sleep at night without a sleep-aid, they have frequent nightmares about being buried alive or about being in surgery again, they can have a fear of being left alone and even suffer paranoia.
If you have fears about an upcoming surgery, you should always talk to your physician and get answers to all of your questions before the day of surgery. You can also meet and discuss any fears or concerns you may have with the anesthesiologist who will be treating you during your surgery.