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If You're Worried About Waking Up During Surgery...

I've said countless times before the health care system, as it stands today, is the absolute best in the entire world for treating acute surgical emergencies. Beyond that, it is an unmitigated failure at treating chronic illness. Arguably, the current health system may be the leading cause of death in this country for allowing, even promoting, so many unnecessary procedures, drugs and problems.

So, this report from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations may not surprise you very much. The group, which accredits hospitals and surgical centers that meet its safety criteria, has issued a warning to hospitals to do more to prevent patients from waking up during their surgeries.

Medical experts estimate 50-100 patients wake up during their surgeries EVERY DAY! When you multiply that estimate by the approximate number of surgeries annually -- 21 million -- you have good reason to be concerned.

National organizations like the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists acknowledge the problem, but not professionals -- particularly anesthesiologists -- who perform in the field.

The root of the problem: When the anesthesia wears off, patients become aware of what is happening to them, but they are still paralyzed by drugs and unable to signal that they are awake. Depending on a person's alertness, the experience varies from:

  • Hearing operating room conversations
  • Feeling like they can't breathe
  • Experiencing the pain of surgery

USA Today October 6, 2004

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