Would we die of shock if we weren't anaesthetised during surgery?

Any medical experts in the house? Would we faint or could we die from shock?

I’m definitely not a medical expert but I would assume that if intrepid women can survive childbirth without the aid of pain-killers, the rest of us could survive surgery similarly. Who knows though…

I’m not a medical expert either… but surgery certainly predates anaesthesia by many centuries. Archaeologists have turned up skulls from thousands of years ago that have holes made by trepannation. And I remember reading fairly recently (on this board? Might be…) about kidney stones, and how the operation of being “cut for the stone”, while no picnic for an eighteenth-century patient, was preferable to enduring the pain of the stone itself.

Come to think of it, there was a documentary a few years back on (UK) Channel Four, about hypnosis, and whether it has any actual effect. One thing it mentioned was the use of hypnosis to replace anaesthesia during surgery - and then they showed an operation being performed by a surgeon who didn’t use anaesthetics or hypnosis… made me cringe, I can tell you.

Anaesthesia obviously reduces the stress on the patient, and makes it easier for the surgeon to work, too. But people survived before anaesthesia was effective. Also, there are those occasional horror stories one hears, where the anaesthesia is only partly effective and the patient remains aware during the procedure. The fact that patients can report this after the event suggests that the pain of surgery isn’t necessarily fatal.

An interesting side note: There is evidence to suggest that parts of the brain (I don’t like the word, but it would be considered your sub-concious mind) function in a completely normal fashion while ‘under.’ i.e. that on some level you know what’s going on. Some say this accounts for post-operative depression and vivid nightmares involving factual information from the surgery.

This might be of interest to you:


Well this is an interesting thread, it has been discussed before. Actually the answer is Yes and No. There are people who have the ability to put themselves in ‘altared states’ and have such surgeries as an appendix out, or a knee operation. However, I do not beleive anyone can do this kind of meditation with open heart surgery where you are put on a respirator and dialysis machine.
Also, during Brain surgery the patient has to be awake to ensure neurological stability. This is a fact, they give the patient a local anethetic that works so they can open the cranial cavity and get to the brain, but the patient has to be awake. I am not sure of all the ramifications of this ‘wakefulness’ but I know it happens.

I have heard of people undergoing opperations when the anaestethia wore off. One woman undergoing a C-cection described it as someone cutting yoru stomach open and pouring molten lead into it.

We like to give you a general so we can do stuff to you!

Seriously, some surgeries require the patient to be specifically positioned in other than the classic flat-on-your-back. You don’t want to know about this.
If you were conscious, you’d be tense, and cutting through and sewing up tightened muscle isn’t the easiest thing to do.
Medically, shock is defined as inadequate perfusion, so if your body perceived an injury, it would trigger the sympathetic nervous system to shunt blood from the non-vital areas and keep the brain and the heart perfused. This isn’t so great for your kidneys. It’s best if you’re not aware of cutting going on.
If you mean shock as an emotional state, who needs the stress of watching your own surgery? Some procedure must be done with the patient awake enough to help find the problem, but then you give them a nice dose of Versed and they remain with it enough to respond but don’t remember the procedure when it’s over.

There’s an important difference. If human females could not, in sufficient numbers, survive childbirth without artificial assistance, the species wouldn’t be around today. You can’t say the same thing about the ability to survive gall bladder removal or limb amputation without anesthesia. Childbirth is not only “natural” (by any reasonable definition) but necessary to ensure the survival of the species; surgery may be required to provide for the survival of the individual, but the species will live on.

People did sometimes survive surgery in the days before reliable anesthetics, so I suppose that means it is possible… sometimes at least. But it’s a pretty horrifying thought…