Anesthesia error: awake during surgery

The University of Washington (UW) and the American Society of Anesthesiologists has established a registry of patients who were aware or recall events and sensations from their surgeries even though they were under anesthesia and were supposed to be asleep.

In an article on, one patient described being aware during parts of her five hour surgery to remove an eye. Paralyzed from medications, she described the feeling of being aware akin to being in hell. She awoke from the surgery screaming, “I was awake!”

The Anesthesia Awareness Registry and is working to understand why this phenomenon occurs, how to prevent it and how to help health care providers respond to their patients who have experienced it. The motto of the registry is “Stop Anesthesia Awareness — 1 case is 1 too many.”

Some patients who were aware during their surgeries suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is an anxiety disorder caused by experiencing a traumatic event which involved the threat of injury or death or other terrifying ordeal.

Some “anesthesia awareness” patients have filed medical malpractice lawsuits because of their surgical experience. In one case, a lawsuit was filed after a 73-year-old patient experienced 16 minutes of pain during surgery because general anesthesia was not administered for 16 minutes after the surgery began. The patient was unable to cry out because paralyzing drugs were administered. He committed suicide following the surgery after experiencing excruciating pain and nightmares and horrifying thoughts.

This information is provided by The Farber Law Group. We investigate potential claims for medical and surgical malpractice in the Seattle-metropolitan area and throughout the Pacific Northwest. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical error or anesthesia malpractice, contact us for a free and confidential consultation.

Contact The Farber Law Group at 1-800-244-9087 or to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation. We have offices in Seattle and Bellevue to assist you.

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