This is known as Anesthesia Awareness, a topic many doctors refuse to talk about. Although severe cases are rare, smaller cases occur in one out of every one thousand patients. We need to create a better understanding of this topic because of the high chance of experiencing awareness ourselves. Anesthesia Awareness happens when patients become conscious during surgery. There are many different causes that can lead to this. For example, if a doctor does not give enough anesthesia for the procedure awareness can occur.
Awareness usually happens with the use of general anesthesia and muscle relaxants. If the sedative is ineffective this could leave the patient fully awake, but unable to move due to the paralytic. Patients that are having minor surgeries need less anesthesia and the risk for awareness is higher.
Patients that experience Anesthesia Awareness usually ends up with a mental disorder known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. After going through a traumatic event, such as awareness, depression, anxiety, and stress are also disorders that individuals can develop.
Counseling is usually referred to the patients after experiencing this. Most patients describe the feeling as being tortured for hours on end. Those who experience this generally cannot move, talk or show any sign of being awake, therefore, the doctor continues with the surgery. In most cases the patient does not feel pain, yet, they do feel the pressure. In a case where the patient did feel the surgery rather than just pressure, they are encouraged to inform their doctor post-operation.
Informing the doctor and talking with the anesthesiologist can help prevent this from reoccurring in any future operations.
Anesthesiologists, as well as neuroscientists, are searching for the most effective way to prevent Anesthesia Awareness. As of right now, these researchers are searching for ways to make their brain monitoring systems better at detecting the patient’s awareness. Anesthesiologists have started using brain monitors to check a patient’s brain waves and the depth of the anesthesia affecting the patient. These doctors are also training in order to recognize the signs of awareness and how to prevent them. The meetings also inform the doctors on what to do in the case of awareness occurring. Doctors have begun researching and performing experiments to understand how anesthesia affects the brain. Their results not only will ensure that anesthesiologists are giving the patients the perfect amount of anesthesia, but also help prevent awareness from occurring. Anesthesiologists started a registry for the sufferers of awareness. On this website, these individuals can share their stories and give anesthesiologists more insight on how to prevent Anesthesia Awareness.
Anesthesia Awareness can affect any person of any age or condition; however, there are certain procedures and lifestyles that can increase the risk. Certain medications and daily alcohol use can contribute to an increase for the risk of Anesthesia Awareness. Different surgeries have higher risks for this complication as well. Cesarean sections, heart surgeries and emergency surgeries are procedures where this awareness occurs most often. This can also happen at the fault of the anesthesiologist. Awareness can also occur if machine malfunctions and stops giving the anesthetics to the patient. Polymorphisms are gene deficiencies in brain tissue that can increase the risk of awareness happening to a patient. Patients that have this condition need more anesthesia for their surgeries.
The way an individual’s body reacts to anesthesia can also be a factor in their risk for awareness. “General anesthesia is a combination of medications that put the patient in a sleep-like state before a surgery or other medical procedure.” General Anesthesia affects all individuals differently based on their lifestyle and health conditions. For example, individuals that have had a stroke, have seizures, or other neurological conditions will be at a higher risk of the anesthesia being ineffective than an individual with no problems. Other conditions that could result in ineffective anesthesia are high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. The medications an individual takes can also cause the anesthesia to failing.
The brain can react in many different ways while under anesthesia. The anesthesia reacts with the brain cells and certain proteins to control the actions sent through the body. Some doctors still are not sure how the anesthesia is able to control our brains to the point where we lose consciousness.“When the brain falls asleep, drifts into a coma or comes under the influence of anesthetic drugs, the ability to synthesize information disappears, though the brain doesn’t cease to function.”. Anesthesia slows the brain waves causing the patient to go into a sleep-like state. As neuroscientists and anesthesiologists discover more about how the brain works, they can expand their knowledge on how anesthesia affects the activity of the brain.
Anesthesia Awareness is an ongoing problem we need to understand because of the risk of us experiencing the complication. Any individual of any age can experience waking up during surgery. Although anesthesiologists and neuroscientists are searching for a way to prevent this, they do not have a brain monitor that can tell how the long anesthesia will affect the patient. There are many other factors that can lead to an increased risk for Anesthesia Awareness, including health conditions. Overall, Anesthesia Awareness is a medical complication that is not as uncommon as we want to believe and is worth taking the time to understand.