Patients Under General Anesthesia Perceive, Remember Surgery

Some patients perceive or remember surgery under general anesthesia, and as many as 70 percent of those patients go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study involved 6,041 patients at high risk for unintended intraoperative awareness. The researchers sought to determine whether monitoring electrical activity in the brain during surgery was more effective in keeping patients unconscious than a cheaper monitoring method that measures the concentration of anesthesia in exhaled breath.

The team found that monitoring electrical activity was not more effective for keeping patients unconscious. The study found that seven of the nine patients who had "definite awareness" of their surgeries and 12 of the 18 who had "possible awareness" were in the group that receiving the monitoring.

According to the report, as many as 70 percent of the 20,000-40,000 U.S. patients who have experienced unintended intraoperative awareness have gone on to develop post-traumatic stress syndrome. Patients reported feelings of panic, fear and helplessness while they were aware of surgery under general anesthesia.

Read the LA Times report on the study.

Related Articles on Anesthesia:
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Retired Anesthesiologist Gifts $4M to University of Louisville School of Medicine

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