Woman sues doctor for traumatizing anesthesia awareness

Unintended intraoperative awareness, also called anesthesia awareness, is a well-documented risk of surgery. A study published in the Anesthesia & Analgesia Journal concluded that about 0.13% of patients experience anesthesia awareness during surgery. One woman recently filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against her doctor for an experience that she claims was unintended intraoperative awareness. The woman said that she was paralyzed during an operation on her sinuses, but was conscious and able to feel pain. She also claims that the experience left her with posttraumatic stress disorder. Both sides in the trial concluded that the patient did display symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, but claimed that what caused it was different. The anesthesiologist argued that the consciousness the woman recalled was not during the surgery itself, but that it was during the recovery period. While there is no dispute that anesthesia awareness occurs, the jury ruled that the patient in this case was not conscious until after the surgery had been performed. The woman stated that although she did not win her lawsuit, she will work to spread the word about anesthesia awareness and the technology that can be, but is not, regularly used to monitor brain activity to prevent the experience.

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