The Horror Of Waking Up Part Way Through Surgery

Waking up part way through a surgical procedure would probably come high on the list of most people’s idea of their worst nightmare coming true.  Imagine lying completely helpless, as surgeons and theatre nurses talk around you, while cutting into your body.

Well it may surprise you to learn that for more than 150 people per year, this horrifying situation comes true, according to a recent study.  The Royal College of Anaesthetists and Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland orchestrated a study looking into three million operations over a period of one year and found that in one in every 19,000 operations a patient wakes up, despite a general anaesthetic being administered.

The study found that around 41% of cases involved long-term injury to the mental health of the individuals affected.  One women, who went on to be awarded £30,000 compensation, described waking up and feeling the agony of the surgeon cutting and then stitching up her stomach.  She suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the experience, in which she said that the feeling of being trapped and not being able to move or communicate (due to the tubes down her throat)  in order to tell the people around her what was going on was “worse than the pain”.

Some patient akin the experience to being “buried alive”,

What Causes People To Wake Up During Surgery?

The study found that around 90% of the cases occurred when muscle-relaxant drugs were given alongside the drugs that cause the patient to lose consciousness.  This would explain why the patients were physically paralysed, but aware of what was going on around them.

In C-section operations, the anaesthetist provider may issue a lighter dose of general anaesthesia in order to protect the unborn child.  This can also leave the patient at risk of anaesthetic awareness; therefore, the person administering the anaesthesia should explain the risks to the patient before proceeding.

It was found that in 17 cases of anaesthetic awareness, errors in drug administration were to blame.

Can I Claim Compensation If I Wake Up During Surgery?

Waking up during surgery can cause tremendous psychological damage.  It must be stressed that the situation is rare, and even when it does occur, most people suffer from only a brief awareness and no ill-effects.

Those that do suffer from a lengthy and painful experience of anaesthetic awareness may experience the following side-effects for many years after the event:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • An extreme fear of medical procedures
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Flashbacks

It is possible to claim compensation for anaesthetic awareness, however, you will need to prove negligence on part of the person who administered the anaesthesia, and that the episode of anaesthetic awareness caused you damage.

No Win No Fee

In order to make compensation claims more accessible to those who cannot afford large legal fees, many personal injury solicitors provide no win no fee representation.  It is important that you enquire about this when you contact a legal professional about claiming compensation.

Anaesthetic awareness can result in life-changing psychological damage.  If you have suffered from this rare occurrence and believe it has caused you damage and suffering, then please contact our office to talk to one of our advisors.  We will take the time to listen to your situation and advise you as to whether you have a chance at making a successful claim for the compensation you deserve.