I experienced anesthesia awareness before, but i'm getting surgery again.

Hello everyone. I’m not really sure exactly what this forum is even about, but I found this threads via google:

Since it sounds like a lot of members here have had surgery and experienced this, I decided to sign up here and ask about this.

So I had surgery back in 2008. I was under general anesthesia but I could feel EVERYTHING but I was completely paralyzed so I couldn’t express my pain in any way. I badly wanted to scream but couldn’t. I would go as far as to say this probably the worst thing a human being can experience and that the no language on earth would allow me to adequately express the mental trama this has caused me.

Even worse, when I confronted the surgeon about this, he told me it wasn’t possible and that it was all a dream. I was able to tell him everything he said during the surgery. His eye widened (so i KNEW he was bullshitting me) but then he simply denied it again. Also, there was a technical term he used while I was “under” that I NEVER heard before. So I looked it up, and it turned out to be a term that was relevant to the surgery I had. My point in mentioning this is there is no way I could have learned a new word in my sleep, so I KNOW for 100 percent fact I experienced anesthesia awareness, and the worst kind at that.

I’ve wanted another surgery for years but keep putting it off out of fear of this happening to me again. What I want to know is, what should I tell the surgeon and/or anesthesiologist to lower the risk of this happening again? Is there a drug I should ask for? I would honestly risk death to avoid this happening to me again.

If it matters, the surgery is going to be kind of a facelift but it will only lift the top and middle sections of my face. It will also lift the corners of my eyes.

Here’s some info about me that may be relevant, though most of it probably isn’t:

Age: 26
Ethnicity: 1/4 white and 3/4 mediterranean
Height: 6 foot
Weight: 175lbs
Gender: Male
Number of previous surgeries: 1

I would never go back to that doctor. Find another one who is willing to ensure that you are adequately sedated into oblivion.

I am not using the same surgeon, I’m using a different one.

The doctor is not telling you the truth at least according to my surgeon. I talked to him about this before my first surgery. He said it happens very very rarely.

But in any case, it’s the anesthesiologist you need to talk to not the surgeon. You should talk to your surgeon about this and tell him you want to talk to the anesthesiologist before the day of the surgery. You will talk to him routinely the day of the surgery in any case, but I think in this case talking ahead of time would be a good idea. Be sure you find out exactly what kind of anesthetic they gave you the previous time so you can inform them.

I know my surgeon lied to me, it really pissed me off that he knew I was aware the whole time (as I was able to recite what he said to the nurses during the surgery) but lied to my face anyway.

With the harrowing experience you’ve had, I’m surprised you’re going in for cosmetic surgery. If I were in your place, I wouldn’t have surgery that was completely optional. (Perhaps I’m reading the OP wrong).

If this terrifies you so much (and I can’t say I blame you!), I’d seriously consider not having the surgery at all.

EDIT: I spoke to my roommate about this and she concurs with the other posters about you talking to the anesthesiologist.

why is the OP getting a facelift at age 26??? is that a typo?

You would risk death to avoid being aware during surgery? And you’re itching to go in for elective cosmetic procedures?

The best way to avoid it happening again is not to have more surgery.

In case you ever do need more surgery, like for a real and serious medical condition, it would be prudent to investigate what drugs were used during your previous surgery, so you can discuss it with the new doctors and figure out a plan.

But seriously. If I’d had this problem, I’d stay the hell away from surgery that isn’t necessary to keep me alive and well.

Nope, not a typo, I am twenty-six.

I’m not getting a full facelift but it’s something similar.

I’m getting it because due to the way my face developed during puberty, my facial skin and muscles hang lower than they should, making my face look very droopy in certain areas. This makes me look ugly, tired, and much much older than my actual age.

I want to live a normal life and be able to get a girlfriend someday.

Should I ask for one of those amnesia inducing drugs just in case it happens so I won’t remember it if it does happen? I suppose if it happens but I am unable to remember it, it’s kind of like it never happened and it wouldn’t cause any psychological trauma.

Does anyone have any experience with drugs that induce amnesia? Particularly when it comes to surgery (though I’d like to hear from anyone who’s used it personally in any case).

I’ve had surgery performed with the amnesiac drugs you’re talking about. I remember that it took them a while to get me into the state they wanted (this was for a gastroscopy when I was a teenager… little stomach ulcer problem). I have no recollection of the surgery itself, other than the anesthesiologist getting a little frustrated that I wouldn’t get to the right level of sedation (“yes, I can still count backward from 100”).

IANAD, but can’t help wonder if you simply captured sound bites from the previous operation and your fears turned fleas into fire-breathing dragons (from a memory perspective). Kind of like if you’ve ever slept through a loud thunderstorm and thought you heard gunshots (or, in my favorite personal anectdote, thought that a middle-of-the night snuggling while I was asleep was a horde of insects - and man, did my response scare the hell out of her!). What a waste of a good “happy time.”

The mind is much more complicated than the drugs. Just try to let the drugs be right for a change.

Or, as mentioned up-thread consider not doing it if it worries you that much.

Ask whether you can be hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG) machine.

I read a news story recently about surgery patients such as you who were awake throughout the procedures.

A surgeon interviewed for the story said that if it were up to him, every patient undergoing surgery would be hooked up to an EEG machine because the tracings would clearly show the patient is awake. The surgeon said using EEGs in operating theatres should be as routine as anesthesia (which, come to think of it, might not be the best example).

I can’t find the story I read, but this Wikipedia entry might be of help.

Personally, I would want a dry run. That is, they would need to put me under and speak a secret phrase. Then if I wake up and repeat that phrase, we repeat the procedure until they get it right. Then we do the surgery.

I don’t know much about what happened to you, though I’ve heard of it and seen documentaries about it. I have no idea if, having had it once means you’re more likely to have it happen a second time or if each time you go under has nothing to do with previous experiences (like rolling a set of dice). Also, I don’t know if different drugs will give you different outcomes or if a person that’s had this happen is just more prone to it, but I’d imagine some studies have been done.
That said, if I were in your shoes, I’d probably ask for Versed (the amnesia drug) and local anesthesia so even if you are ‘awake’ you’re less likely to feel anything.
OTOH, I have no idea of there’s any complications with having general anesthesia and Versed at the same time.

Sorry, we should have moved this from GQ to IMHO before.


I hope you find your answers. I have always been very very grateful that I had surgery at an early, young age, and found out that I am completely susceptible to anaesthesia before I even discovered some people aren’t. That would be my nightmare.

I would not want to ever go in for surgery again. I am amazed you are even considering it.

Some surgeries the person is given pain killers but kept awake and aware and able to respond, perhaps this is a option for you, this way you can let them know if you are experiencing such pain.

I’ve heard of having some part of your body not be anaesthized, like say your right hand. That way if you are awake, you can signal for help.

I can’t imagine what a nightmare you experienced. I would be suing the hell out of that hospital, especially after the doctor dismissed your concerns so readily.

I just want to express my utter astonishment that the old thread wasn’t resurrected but instead the brand-new poster in question actually started a new thread while linking to the old one.

RainbowDash, are you by any chance redheaded? Though I had never heard of this before I had knee surgery two years ago, those of who are redheads tend to require more anesthesia. Luckily, my anesthesiologist knew this and prepped accordingly.