Although it is relatively a very rare incident, but those it happened to bear the psychological marks for as long as they live. Waking up during medical surgeries is one of the most fearful things any patient would not want to experience, but it does happen even though the incidence rate is quite low. Many patients who experienced waking up during surgeries describe their experiences and the accompanying psychological traumas they are subjected to anytime they recall what happened to them, or any time a trigger alerts their mind to what they went through in the theatre.

“I was awake but paralyzed. I could hear the surgeon telling his trainee to ‘cut deeper into the eye,’” says Carol Weihrer who woke up while undergoing eye surgery in 1998. “I was screaming, but no one could hear me. I felt no pain, just a tugging sensation. I tried to move my toes or even push myself off the operating table, but I couldn’t move. I thought I was dying.” She’s been reminded of that experiences anytime something triggers the thought. “I’ve had to sleep in a recliner for the last 16 years. If I lie flat, I get flashbacks of the operating table and I start violently thrashing.”

According to a research published in the journal Anesthesia, only 19,600 patients accidently came to while undergoing surgery out of a total 3 million patients surveyed for general anesthesia in the UK and Ireland. And in the US, a rate of 1person to 670 woke up during general anesthesia, which means the incident is a little higher here.

Most patients relate that they experienced fear, choking, pain, paralysis, hallucinations, and near-death experiences when they wake up during surgeries, and medical experts believe that the consciousness regained during surgeries lasted less than 5 minutes in 75% of all cases. But the problem is that most of these persons experience long-term psychological pains like depression and PSTD, among others.

For general anesthesia, a drug mixture which induces unconsciousness and causes amnesia is given to the patient prior to the surgery, but a paralytic may be added to enable surgeons operate in inaccessible areas when muscles are tense, and to prevent patient from moving, and to allow doctors insert breathing tubes among others. However, patients tend to wake when the anesthesia is insufficient to suppress consciousness or when the effects run out before the doctors are through with their operations.

8 Responses

  1. Karl

    I actually woke up in the middle of having my wisdom teeth removed. There really wasn’t any pain and a general lack of any sensation of what they were doing. I suppose I pretty quickly realized where I was and what was going on because I had no panic or fear of the situation, I actually remember thinking it was rather interesting that I could regain consciousness during the procedure and was able to observe from my perspective. The nurse assisting certainly was a bit shocked when she saw my eyes open and I was being attentive. I wonder if it’s actually more common for people to regain consciousness but if no trauma is experienced then it goes unreported?

    Reply
  2. Stated Truth

    “Carol Weihrer who woke up while undergoing eye surgery in 1998. ‘I was
    screaming, but no one could hear me. I felt no pain…I’ve had
    to sleep in a recliner for the last 16 years. If I lie flat, I get
    flashbacks of the operating table and I start violently thrashing.'”
    ______________

    16 years? I suspect that this neurotic broad would be better kept at all times under anesthesia and that her husband is glad that she now sleeps in the living room.

    Incompetent and inattentive anesthesiologists are likely to blame for most of these mishaps. Minutes into an operation, the unprofessional gasser turns into the equivalent of an overnight security guard in front of a black-and-white monitor who is going through the motions but not really paying careful attention. The same goes for the surgeon who is blaring his music and chit-chatting with the OR team.

    Solution? STFU, prima donna, and turn off the noise. Legislators should mandate the audio/video recording of EVERY operation and the remittance of a free copy of that recording to every patient. Then, watch our overpaid players shape up or face fines for their unprofessionalism and negligence.

    Reply
  3. FinalOpinion

    Having practiced anesthesia for fifty years, I think if they could ever pinpoint the number one cause why a patient regains some consciousness during surgery, it would be that the person administering the anesthetic was not attentive enough. It would be wonderful if all general anesthesia patients could have the benefit of Electroencephalography (EEG….monitoring of brain-wave activity)) during surgery. With just a couple of small patch electrodes to the head, the brain wave- activity will tell the anesthetist if the patient is starting to regain consciousness, long before any lasting memories could form during an operation.

    Reply
    • Tom

      Here’s a quote from Joshua Lang’s article “Awakening”: “In 2008 the New England Journal of Medicine published a study comparing the nearly 2000 surgery patients at high risk of awareness: 967 patients were monitored by BIS (which is based on EEC monitoring) and 974 via attention to changes in the amount of anesthetic gas they exhaled throughout a procedure. The author, a researcher at the Washington University School of Medicine named Michael Avidan, found that both groups of patients experienced awareness at similar rates. In other words, BIS was no more effective that a much cheaper and more standard method”.

      Reply
      • Tom

        I apologize for my sloppy proofreading. Please delete “the” prior to the phrase “nearly 2000 surgery patients” and replace “that’ with “than” prior to the phrase “a much cheaper and more standard method”.

  4. yeahaboutthat

    “Although it is relatively a very rare incident, but those it happened to
    bear the psychological marks for as long as they live. Waking up during
    medical surgeries is one of the most fearful things any patient would
    not want to experience,”
    ______________

    Where was the managing editor on this article?

    Reply
      • Jesse4

        When they wake up and read that sentence, they’ll be traumatized.

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