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Hospital Nightmare: Patients Wake During Surgery

By    |   Wednesday, 10 September 2014 05:11 PM

It’s a nightmare scenario for anyone undergoing surgery: “Waking up” on the operating table. And a new study suggests it may happen more often than you might think — in one in every 19,000 operations — according to a new study out of the U.K. and Ireland.

The study found the individuals reported becoming conscious during surgery — despite being given general anesthesia — BBC News reports. They found episodes were more likely when patients were given general anesthesia or certain drugs.
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Though rare, experts say such cases require more attention and research to prevent them.
The study, led by the Royal College of Anesthetists and Association of Anesthetists of Great Britain, tracked three million operations over a period of one year. More than 300 people reported they had experienced some level of awareness during surgery — some recalled experiences from years ago.
Most episodes were short-lived and occurred before surgery started or after operations were completed. But some 41 percent of cases resulted in long-term psychological harm.
Patients described a variety of experiences — from panic and pain to choking — though not all episodes caused concern, according to the BBC.  The most alarming were feelings of paralysis and being unable to communicate, the researchers say.
About 90 percent of cases occurred when muscle-relaxant drugs were administered in combination with other drugs that dampen consciousness. Researchers believe in some of these cases patients received an inappropriate balance of medication, leaving them paralyzed but still aware.
"For the vast majority it should be reassuring that patients report awareness so infrequently," said Tim Cook, at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, who led the research: "However for a small number of patients this can be a highly distressing experience.
"I hope this report will ensure anesthetists pay even greater attention to preventing episodes of awareness."

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Patients 'wake up' during surgery more often than you might think, a new study suggests.
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Wednesday, 10 September 2014 05:11 PM
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