How likely is it for you to wake up during surgery – paralyzed and unable to speak?

Well this idea is just terrifying. It’s called “accidental awareness,” and it basically entails a patient being out cold because of anesthesia, but at some point during the surgery, they wake up (mentally), and can feel pain and can see, but the doctors are unaware because of the paralysis from the anesthesia. Nightmare central. Not only […]

Well this idea is just terrifying. It’s called “accidental awareness,” and it basically entails a patient being out cold because of anesthesia, but at some point during the surgery, they wake up (mentally), and can feel pain and can see, but the doctors are unaware because of the paralysis from the anesthesia. Nightmare central.

Not only can this experience be clearly horrifying in the moment, it can cause depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. But until recently, there hasn’t been a lot of research done on how often this happens and why. A new study takes a look at the statistics and who might be more susceptible.

The study was the focus of the 5th National Audit Project, which seeks to better understand relatively rare anesthesia-related conditions. The findings were published in the journal Anaesthesia, with Jaideep Pandit of Oxford University Hospitals as lead author. While previous studies have found that accidental awareness occurred in one out of 1,000 patients, this new study found that the overall odds of waking up during surgery is about one in 19,600, or roughly 0.005% of the time. In the United States alone, there are over 21 million surgeries each year that require general anesthesia, and about 1,050 will experience an episode of consciousness during the procedure.

Sponsored Post

Physician Targeting Using Real-time Data: How PurpleLab’s Alerts Can Help

By leveraging real-time data that offers unprecedented insights into physician behavior and patient outcomes, companies can gain a competitive advantage with prescribers. PurpleLab®, a healthcare analytics platform with one of the largest medical and pharmaceutical claims databases in the United States, recently announced the launch of Alerts which translates complex information into actionable insights, empowering companies to identify the right physicians to target, determine the most effective marketing strategies and ultimately improve patient care.

Most of the cases didn’t occur right in the middle of surgery. Usually the incidents happened during the beginning of going under or toward the end, but regardless people reported feeling pain, hallucinations, and asphyxiation.

General anesthesia is designed to temporarily cause paralysis, which relaxes the muscles and makes surgery easier for the doctors, but it also means a patient can’t move or talk. Increased heart rate or blood pressure would alert the doctors, but those physiological cues can be muted by medications given as part of the surgical procedure. Here are some facts about frequency of these occurrences:

There are some significant risk factors associated with waking up during surgery. These include gender (females are more likely than males to wake up), age (young adults, though not children or teens), obesity, emergency surgeries and C-sections (where less anesthetic is typically used) and anesthesiologists who are early in their training.

The researchers believe that nerve simulators could help doctors to detect when a patient becomes awake, but mostly they believe that in cases where this happens, doctors need to be able to provide immediate psychological help to lessen the impact of trauma that could create things like PTSD.