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Waking up during surgery: A real risk

One of the most frightening things for many people who go in for surgery is the idea that they could wake up in the middle of the procedure. They know that they are supposed to be given medication to keep them unconscious and safe until the surgery is finished, but they worry that it will not work or it will not be enough.

It is a real risk. Worse yet, patients who wake up may not be able to move or indicate to the doctors that they are awake. Their muscles remain paralyzed while their brain wakes up. They're conscious and they feel everything, but they do not have the ability to tell the medical team to immediately give them more painkillers.

This does happen, and medical professionals call it anesthesia awareness. For every 1,000 people who go in for surgery in the United States, this happens to one person. That's far more common than many people realize, even when worrying that it will happen to them.

What other options do you have? In some cases, you may be able to use local anesthesia instead of general anesthesia. This can deaden the pain without putting you under, so you don't have to worry about waking up. However, this is not possible for all procedures. You need to talk to your medical team to find out what will be best for you.

If that medical team does make a mistake and you wake up during surgery, the pain and suffering you endure can be extensive. Make sure you know what legal options you have.

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