Patients Reveal Their Feelings about General Anesthesia


British doctors described incidents of patients’ unexpected awakening during an operation in their new report. According to the authors, they covered all of these cases that occurred in UK hospitals during 2012-2013.

Despite the properly carried out anesthesia, some patients awaken independently, long before the anesthesia ceases working. In 2012, anesthesiologists of all the UK hospitals were told to record cases when patients talked about sudden termination of general anesthesia during the surgery. The researchers who received this data then interviewed the patients and their physicians. In total, 300 interviews were conducted.

As a result, the experts have concluded that the greatest stress in the situations of interrupted anesthesia for the patient was not the pain, but the feeling of complete paralysis. Being paralyzed, patients could not tell the anesthetists that anesthesia ceased to operate. They described their feelings as “horror”, “nightmare”, “shock”.

Doctors say that during many operations patients are given paralyzing agents in addition to soporific drugs. These agents relax the muscles and inhibit reflex movements. Anyway, all patients have suffered pain in their life, unlike the sense of complete paralysis.

The document also notes that the majority of waking episodes were very short, besides they occurred before or after the surgery. Nevertheless, it caused mental distress in 51 percent of the respondents. In addition to paralysis, the patients complained of pain and a feeling of suffocation.

In their view, anesthetists should use nerve stimulating devices to be able to calculate the minimum dose of paralyzing drugs. This will help avoid the patients’ total immobility during operations, if they suddenly regain consciousness, and give them the opportunity to warn doctors about the incident.