Awareness During General Anesthesia

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Awareness During General Anesthesia

Topic Overview

In very rare cases, a person who is given general anesthesia but is not completely unconscious may be aware of what is happening during the procedure. Awareness under general anesthesia is very rare, because anesthesia specialists devote careful attention and use many methods to prevent this.

Awareness may be recalled as an implicit memory or explicit memory. With implicit memory, information is retained but not consciously recalled. The person may display symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, including dreams, flashbacks, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. With explicit memory, the person has spontaneous recall of events that occurred during the procedure, such as sounds and sensations of paralysis or pain. Consultation with a psychiatrist or psychologist may be warranted if a person has signs or symptoms of psychological trauma from awareness during surgery.

Related Information


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John M. Freedman, MD, MD - Anesthesiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer C. Dale Mercer, MD, FRCSC, FACS - General Surgery
Last Revised April 14, 2010

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