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Waking up During Surgery can Lead to Bad Memories

Update Date: Nov 29, 2014 10:19 AM EST

Surgical patients who experienced "accidental awareness during general anesthesia" can be scarred for life, a new study found. According to researchers, this rare phenomenon in which patients gain consciousness during their surgery but cannot feel anything, could lead to bad memories and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

For this study, researchers examined survey answers provided by more than three million patients who received general anesthesia in the United Kingdom and Ireland. About one in every 19,600 patients had woken up during surgery. The researchers noted that the cases were self-reported and not confirmed by the operating surgeons.

The majority of the accidental wake ups, at 75 percent, lasted less than five minutes. These patients stated feeling a wide array of emotions, such as choking, pain, and paralysis, which the patients ranked as the number one most distressing emotion. .

"Paralysis is terrifying and has never been experienced by most people," Jaideep Pandit, consultant anesthetist at Oxford University Hospitals and lead author of the study, said reported by CNN.

They also reported hallucinations and near death experiences. These emotions increased the patients' risk of suffering from psychological issues. Roughly 50 percent of these patients developed mental health conditions, such as PTSD and depression.

The researchers stressed the importance of detecting "accidental awareness during general anesthesia," and preventing it whenever possible.

The study was published in the journal, Anaesthesia.

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