Anesthesia Awareness During Surgery

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Anesthesia Awareness During Surgery

In extremely rare cases, a patient can become conscious during surgery and subsequently recall what occurred. This experience, referred to as “intraoperative awareness,” or anesthesia awareness, is estimated to occur about 1 to 2 times per every 1,000 uses of general anesthesia. Most patients do not experience any pain due to intraoperative awareness, but it can be disturbing and some patients may need counseling following surgery to ease their anxiety.





While this is a very rare occurrence, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, is committed to educating the public about intraoperative awareness under general anesthesia and minimizing its occurrence. It is important to note that awareness during surgery applies only to patients who are under general anesthesia. Intraoperative awareness does not include:

  • The period of time just prior to the anesthetic completely taking effect or as the patient is emerging from anesthesia.
  • When sedatives are administered during a local or regional anesthetic (such as a nerve block, spinal or epidural). In these cases, it is expected that patients will have some recollection of the procedure.
  • Patients who receive sedation, and not general anesthesia, for procedures outside of the operating room. This can include dental procedures, upper GI endoscopies, and colonoscopies. Awareness is not unusual for these procedures.

The ASA wants all patients undergoing surgery under general anesthesia to be confident they are in excellent hands. The resources in this section are designed to answer your questions and ease any anxiety. In addition, all ASA physicians are fully trained to keep you safe and comfortable throughout your procedure, and they welcome any questions you have before or after surgery regarding your experience.


7 Things Every Patient Should Know About Anesthesia Awareness During Surgery

Q&A: About Anesthesia Awareness During Surgery


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The ASA does not employ physician anesthesiologists on staff and cannot respond to patient inquiries regarding specific medical conditions or anesthesia administration. Please direct any questions related to anesthetics, procedures or treatment outcomes to the patient’s anesthesiologist or general physician.