Dr Oz: Awake During Surgery – Anaesthetic Awareness or Anesthesia Awareness


Doctor Oz did a segment on his television show about being Awake During Surgery or Anesthesia Awareness.  Can you imagine going in for a surgery, expecting to be asleep, but being awake, hearing, and feeling everything – but you are paralyzed so you can’t let anyone know.  40,000 people each year wakeup during surgery.  Anesthesia Awareness happens more often to women than to men.  What happens is that the Anesthesiologist gives you Anesthesia and medicine to paralyze you, so you end up paralyzed but actually awake.  Doctors do not know what causes Anesthesia Awareness, but it can be a lifetime of suffering if you are Awake During Surgery.  Dr. Panchali Dhar, author of Before the Scalpel: What Everyone Should Know About Anesthesia (a MUST read for anyone having surgery), joined Dr Oz to talk about being Awake During Surgery.  Anaesthetic Awareness

Awake During Surgery – High Risk Category

The first guest on Dr. Oz’s show had her Anesthesia wear off in the middle of her surgery, but was completely paralyzed.  She tried to get her doctor’s attention, but she could not move or make a noise.  When the Anesthesia finally wore off, she flew off the table and was screaming, so the doctors had to jump on top of her and yelled to put her back under.  Dr. Panchali Dhar said that she fell under the high risk category, because her Anesthesiologist kept her dose lower to keep her stable.  Doctor Oz’s guest remembers this nightmare every day and has trouble falling asleep.

Causes for Anaesthetic Awareness

1.  Machines May Malfunction


  1. Kelly says

    I saw this show today & have not been able to stop thinking about the horror stories I heard! There should be NO TOLERANCE for these kind of medical errors!! They are Hell on Earth!!! Thank you to the brave victims who came forward on today’s show to bring awareness to the epidemic (40,000/year is unfathomable!).

  2. LL says

    The segment was incredibly brief and unnecessarily alarmist! Millions of people undergo surgery every year in the US but my understanding is that awareness is uncommon — it definitely happens but is not the norm, in fact is usually described as rare. The segment looked really chopped up; I wonder what discussions and information were edited out? A disappointment for those of us who wonder about this part of surgery; raised far more questions than it answered. But the whole show seemed like a mishmash of segments, no theme pulling everything together. One moment Dr. Roizin is working w/an audience member on an operating table, the next Dr. Oz is being dunked in water. Huh?

  3. Alison , Okanagan Valley BC says

    I was aware for a few minutes at the start of my general anasthetic surgery to have my 4 wisdom teeth out. I heard people talking and i felt the tube being shoved up my nose and scraping painfully down the back of my throat. Then mercifully I feel asleep after that. Years later while having a colonoscopy i became aware twice- i clearly remember feeling sharp pain inside me and a tugging sensation with it, and I remember calling “ow, ow”- again luckily each time I fell back unconscious. I did inform the nurse after each time and they did not believe me (did not make any note of it or tell my doctor) I will remember to ask for a brain monitor now i know that such a thing exists.. .

  4. Thomas says

    Alison – I’m very sorry for any distress you’ve experienced as a result of your awareness during these procedures. However, as stated on Dr. Oz’s website, there are different types of anesthesia. While labeled a “general anesthetic,” dental office anesthesia rarely reaches the depth of a true general anesthetic. Nitrous oxide is typically used, which can never fully anesthetize a patient (although, it is very effective for most dental procedures). Propofol can also be utilized, but it has its limitations, also – at higher doses, it will stop your breathing and drop your blood pressure. As far as the colonoscopies, these are rarely done under general anesthesia. The purpose of the medications given are primarily to keep you comfortable enough to tolerate the procedure. You usually receive a combination of a sedative, like versed, and a pain medication, like demerol. Propofol can also be used, but again, has the same limitations as stated previously. True general anesthesia is rarely used in either of these circumstances, and requires an anesthesiologist to intubate you (i.e. put a breathing tube in your mouth and down your windpipe), and put you on a ventilator, while you inhale anesthetic gases. This would be considered excessive for either of these outpatient procedures, and comes with its own set of risks and complications. The great injustice you experienced through all this, is that your nurses and doctors did not properly inform you that the risk of awareness was not only possible, but rather expected in these cases. When patients understand this, it saves them a whole lot of heartache and anxiety. And unfortunately, a brain monitor would not be utilized in either of these procedures. It is reserved for operating room general anesthesia surgeries, and is largely unproven to improve outcomes. Most large academic hospitals used them ten or more years ago, and have since abandoned them as very expensive and not reliable. Hope this information helps.

  5. Tambria Beaty says

    I did not see the show but was told about it by a friend. 22 years ago during an emergency C Section I had Anesthesia Awareness. I was awake and felt everything. You are paralyzed and cannot move but you are screaming in your head. Thankfully after the twins were delivered I finally went under. It was very traumatizing and when I had surgery at a later date I discussed it with the Anestheologist. They did not discuss a Brain Level Monitor but I was given Versed which is an amnesiac. Thankfully it did not occur again.

  6. DM says

    I am in the hospital right now i have been having really bad bronchospasms in my lungs. I had went in Friday morning (when the spasms were better at that time) to have a bronchoscopy. What happened to me is beyond strange. I was given the meds in my i.v. and the doctor was calling out cc & unit #’s which now i have forgot. Anyhow i am unsure how long i was out it could of been seconds felt like minutes and i woke up trying to tell them i was not asleep trying to ask them to stop but i realized although i had stuff down my nose or throat or both. I was able to move so i started fighting really hard and 3 nurses tried to hold me down (not sure why i just wanted them to stop what they were doing). They gave me more meds and no change i was still awake. I am unsure how many doses i got but i know i should of slept. (When i returned my i.v. was checked and fine but they changed it just in case, although it flushed, weird i suppose). I have to go back in Monday Morning and have had shaking and worry since and dread having it done again. I did notice at the start there were a few big mix up’s and wonder if somehow they mixed my meds. 1st mix up they had me down for a colonoscopy not a bronchoscopy on the paperwork i was supposed to sign so the paperwork was changed and then the Anesthesiologist doctor was getting stuff ready and laid out some medications and said she was missing something and left the room and came back so i am wondering if when she left she laid the other medicine down (if she took it with her i was not fully paying attention to what she took out because at that time nothing seemed odd. Also wondering if she grabbed the wrong one by accident out of the room next door. I am not trying to place the blame but nothing is making sense in my head. My lung specialist told my mother i would be sleeping all day really good to expect it. Well i was hyped up all day, shaky and had to take ambien to fall asleep. Not knowing is my biggest question. Also having to go back in Monday i am totally scared to death right now.

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