Home Preparing for Surgery Is there a chance that I will be awake and paralyzed and unable to tell anyone during my surgery?
Is there a chance that I will be awake and paralyzed and unable to tell anyone during my surgery? PDF Print E-mail

In exceedingly unusual surgical cases, patients have been documented to be awake during surgery and later recall what occurred. Awareness has been noted to occur in some high-risk surgeries, such as after car accidents or other trauma situations, cardiac surgery, emergency obstetrical delivery under general anesthesia. It can occur in situations where we are anesthetizing an unstable patient and the patient can’t be put safely into a deeper anesthetic state with our anesthetic drugs as we normally would because we could harm the patient.


A big distinction about awareness under anesthesia is that it occurs only in patients undergoing general anesthesia, not in patients receiving a local or regional anesthetic (such as a nerve block, spinal or epidural). With the regional or local cases, it is expected that patients will have some recollection of the procedure. You should be aware that it doesn’t apply to the time period just prior to the general anesthetic completely taking effect or as the patient is emerging from general anesthesia.


What can awareness fell like to you? Awareness can range from brief, hazy recollections to some specific awareness of your surroundings during surgery. We do have patients who dream during surgery, or who have some perception of their surroundings before or after surgery. These patients may think they have experienced intraoperative awareness but such a sensation or memory does not necessarily represent actual awareness with recall during the surgical procedure. It has been recorded that usually 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. Our profession has learned that early counseling after an episode of awareness is crucial to lessen feelings of confusion, stress, or shock associated with this experience. Please notify your nurse, surgeon or anesthesia provider as soon possible if you feel you had an episode of awareness under general anesthesia so that we may address your concerns.


American Anesthesiology Associates of Virginia

1001 Sam Perry Blvd
Fredericksburg, VA 22401 (view map)


Office Phone: (540) 741-7614

Fax: (540) 741-7615


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