Does Your Brain Still Process Things During Anesthesia?


Every so often, a story of anesthesia awareness comes across our newsfeeds. In these cases, the patient usually recalls a horrific experience of feeling, seeing, and hearing everything that’s happening to them on the operating table but is stuck in a state of paralysis that prevents them from screaming or somehow signaling to their surgeons that all is not well. Short of finding ourselves in this nightmare scenario, a closer look at anesthesia awareness indicates that more of us might be more conscious under anesthesia than we are even able to recall.

High-quality anesthesia awareness studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals are hard to come by, but the American Society of Anesthesiologists cited estimations that it is a rare occurrence overall with only one or two of every 10,000 medical procedures followed by a patient reporting awareness under anesthesia. The precise risk of anesthesia awareness varies depending on the nature of the procedure. Emergency surgeries or procedures on patients with multiple medical conditions tend to have higher rates of anesthesia awareness.

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