Have you ever wondered what would happen if you woke up during a surgery? What would you feel? Would you be able to hear, see, or speak? Hopefully you’ve never actually had the experience and never will, but unfortunately Carol Weihrer did while undergoing eye surgery.
Weihrer said she could hear what the surgeons were saying and felt a tugging sensation on her eye, but she couldn’t move or speak. She tried screaming and getting up off of the operating table, but she was paralyzed. Weihrer continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (Sathya para. 2).
In the largest study of its kind, researchers surveyed more than 3 million patients who received general anesthesia in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Of those 3 million, approximately one in 19,600 patients accidentally woke up during surgery (Sathya para. 6). That’s roughly 153 people. I believe the article chose to word it “one in 19,600” to make it sound larger and more impressive. Studies in the US reported a much higher rate of 1 in 1,000 patients.
However, there are variables to consider here. It’s probably safe to assume that these cases occurred during different kinds of surgeries for different patients, considering the study doesn’t state otherwise and that would assure that the data was collected diversely. Because of this, isn’t it possible that patients are more likely to wake up during certain surgeries that require a lighter dosage of anesthesia? Perhaps it’s dosages for specific surgeries that’s the problem.
Patients described a range of sensations while being conscious during surgery, including choking, paralysis, pain, hallucinations, and near-death experiences. 75% of these reported episodes lasted under five minutes. Nearly half of all patients who were conscious during surgery suffer from PTSD and depression for a long period of time afterward (Sathya para. 10).
In the US, over 21 million patients receive general anesthesia. Experts estimate that roughly 26,000 of these patients experience anesthetic awareness. Even if the new relatively low rate found in this new study were applied, at least 1,000 Americans each year would still wake up during surgery (Sathya para. 14).
That seems like too many people to me. Hopefully, now that studies have made us aware of this problem, steps can start being taken toward fixing this problem and lowering the numbers.
Sathya, Chethan. “‘I Couldn’t Move’: Patients Who Wake up during Surgery.”CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Nov. 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/28/health/wake-up-during-surgery/?hpt=ob_articlefooterold&iref=obinsite>.