Solution to 'Devastating' Surgical Awareness Remains Elusive

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , August 25, 2011

The key variables – consciousness, memory, and general anesthesia – are obscure, and tools to assess them intraoperatively are rudimentary. The nature of consciousness is a metaphysical problem that has challenged philosophers for centuries and neuroscientists for decades."

He added, "the astonishing thing is not that awareness occurs but that it occurs so infrequently."

These aren't exactly reassuring sentences.

Apfelbaum said that sometimes anesthesiologists give patients medications to dim their memory of what happened during their surgeries. Then, patients can't recall what they were or weren't aware of.

A few months after I wrote about Pomerado hospital's three patients, I received a phone call from one of them.

She wanted to thank me for the story, but as she did, she broke down in tears. She was still unable to sleep, still having nightmares about that day. Worse than that, she told me, she didn't know when it would ever end.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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