In rare surgery cases, patients may experience a distressing phenomenon known as anesthesia awareness. Anesthesia awareness involves regaining consciousness during surgery, potentially leading to heightened pain, fear and psychological trauma.
How Rare is Anesthesia Awareness?
Anesthesia awareness is a real condition and is believed to affect one in every 1,000 surgical patients. It happens when a patient under general anesthesia is still aware of their surroundings and sensations during the procedure. Considering more than 51 million inpatient surgical procedures are done every year, roughly 50 people annually can be affected by this terrifying experience.
When Does Anesthesia Awareness Occur?
Anesthesia awareness only happens if anesthesia is administered improperly or the medical equipment used to monitor it fails. This means that the probability that someone will experience it has nothing to do with their biology or anything they have done. Any other time harm is caused by failing medical equipment or doctor error, a patient can seek compensation through a negligence or malpractice lawsuit. So the same should be true for anesthesia awareness cases.
Difficulties with Anesthesia Awareness Claims
The problem with anesthesia awareness claims is that although a patient may have suffered incomprehensible pain or terror during their procedure, the procedure itself likely was successful. And while the patient may recall everything that happened during the procedure, their body and vital signs may have appeared normal and led the doctors and nursing staff to believe that they were appropriately anesthetized.
While many hospitals will likely defend against a lawsuit based on a patients experience with anesthesia awareness, they are completely aware it happens. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) offers an anesthesia awareness fact sheet to address some of the concerns patients and providers may have about the phenomenon. Within the fact sheet is a list of ‘lasting impacts’ that patients may experience after an episode of anesthesia awareness. These affects include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and repetitive nightmares.
Can You Sue for Anesthesia Awareness?
Anesthesia awareness is a condition that affects some patients. For individuals that have experienced this phenomenon and have suffered mental or emotional trauma because of it, speaking to an experienced personal injury attorney can help.