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Do people really wake up during surgery?

Like many people in Providence County, you have likely heard stories of patients waking up during their surgeries and dismissed them as being just that: stories. Anesthetic agents make it possible for doctors and surgeons to perform many of the life-saving treatments they offer. However, as outlandish as it may seem, it is possible for you to regain a level of consciousness during surgery (the clinical term for such an incident is referred to as “anesthesia awareness”).

Research data shared by the National Institutes of Health shows anesthesia awareness to occur in one to two of every 1000 surgical cases. The severity of cases may vary, although most reports describe patients only recovering a small degree of consciousness. In such a state, you may feel what is being done to you, yet not be fully aware of everything going on around you. Cases of near full awareness during surgery are said to be extremely rare.

In most cases of anesthesia awareness, patients do not report feeling pain, but rather pressure in the areas where they are being treated. General anesthesia is actually a mix of different agents designed to both inhibit pain receptors and suppress your level off consciousness. Thus, suppression agents may wear off while pain inhibitors remain active. Still, while typically not suffering pain, awareness victims often report experiencing severe emotional trauma due to being aware of what is going on inside them.

Your risk of experiencing anesthesia awareness can often be linked to the procedure you are receiving. In emergency surgeries or cardiac procedures, there are risks associated with using deep anesthetics. It may come as little surprise, then, that these types of procedures are the most commonly cited in reported cases of awareness. 

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