May 21, 2019 | Updated: 07:37 AM EDT

A Surgical Nightmare: Anesthesia Failure

Mar 14, 2019 02:27 PM EDT


Imagine you are scheduled for surgery, nerves, and anxiety on high. The doctor explains the procedure. The initial tests are conducted and completed, you are then taken to the anesthesiologist. You tell yourself that everything will be fine, only to become aware while the surgery is ongoing. You're paralyzed and in agony, because of the anesthesia you cannot communicate and you are left with no choice other than to endure the remainder of the procedure. As horrifying as it seems, it actually happens. It becomes all the more significant when we realize just how often general anesthesia is being used today.

"Almost three million general anesthetics happen each year in the UK alone," says Peter Odor, a registrar at St George's Hospital in London. "As a consequence, it is more probable than not that someone, somewhere in the world, right now is aware during their surgery."

General anesthesia creates a controlled unconsciousness that is deeper and more detached from reality even than sleep. Today, anesthetists have a wide range of pain-killing and consciousness-reducing drugs at their disposal, and the exact choice will depend on the procedure and the patient's particular needs. For years, anesthesia awareness has been shrouded in mystery. Although extreme experiences are rare, there is now evidence that around five percent of people may wake up on the operating table - and possibly many more. In most cases, the patient will not remember anything whatsoever due to the effect of the anesthesia.

Today, researchers are striving to understand more about the nature of going under and the circumstances in which anesthesia doesn't work. Hopefully, this will help to make advancements in the reduction of anesthesia awareness. And, with a greater understanding of the anesthetized state, we may even be able to turn a rudimentary awareness to our advantage - in the form of medical hypnosis.

Most experts and doctors consider anesthesia to be a medical miracle. In ancient times, for example, the Greeks would use alcohol or opium to help alleviate the pain. Sadly, most times, the available sedatives were inefficient and unreliable and patients had no hope of escaping the torture. In today's clinics, there are many complicating factors to consider. An anesthetist may choose to use one drug to induce the temporary coma and another to maintain it, and they need to consider many factors, such as the patient's age and weight, whether they smoke or take drugs, and the nature of their illness in order to determine the correct dosages. A small miscalculation could result in a patient experiencing anesthesia awareness.

The truth of the matter is anesthesia and the administering thereof, are very complex and delicate procedures, with numerous variants and factors. But in all actuality, anesthesia is critical for successful surgical procedures in today's medical world. It has become an absolute necessity.

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