7 Healthcast: Awake
In the movie 'Awake', actor Hayden Christiansen's character can hear and feel what's happening as he undergoes open heart surgery. The movie is fiction, but the phenomenon isn't. It's called anesthesia awareness and Angela Delessio says it happened to her during an emergency cesarean section.
"I felt that I was on fire, and then of course feeling the pain of surgery," Delessio said. "The incision, being pulled apart, you feel your insides being operated on."
Angela isn't alone. Of the 21 million surgeries performed under general anesthesia in the U.S. each year, one study says as many as one in 14,000 patients are aware.
It happened to Carol Weirer when she had surgery to remove her eye ten years ago. Carol says she still suffers from the experience, so she's started a support group for other victims and a campaign to raise awareness among anesthesiologists.
"Many victims of awareness are told they're nuts, that they were asleep, that they had a dream," Weirer said. "It is not a dream."
Doctors aren't sure why this happens.
"This is an imperfect science that we have, and a lot of what we're doing is interpreting information that's coming into us from a variety of sources to try to make the best decisions about our patients," said anesthesiologist Dr. Donald Mathews.
Doctors say there isn't much you can do to prevent anesthesia awareness, but they do stress that you have to be completely honest with your anesthesiologist about past drug and alcohol abuse.
And if you have concerns, tell your doctor before the surgery.
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