The Distress of Waking Up Under Anesthesia
Suddenly, I was aware something had gone very wrong. I could hear what was going on around me, and I realized with horror that I had woken up in the middle of the operation, but couldn’t move a muscle. I heard the banal chatter of the surgeons, and I was aware of many people in the room bustling about, doing their everyday clinical jobs and minding their own business, with absolutely no idea of the cataclysmic event that was unfolding from my point of view.
The editors of the report explain in their introduction that both anesthesia and human consciousness itself are not well-understood, and so, "historically, when faced with a report of AAGA, there was a tendency to disbelieve the patient’s account." And when the phenomenon does occur, there's only one person who really knows what happened—the patient. This project was an attempt to deepen understanding about when and how AAGA happens.
The “vast majority” of AAGA instances lasted less than five minutes, it found. There was also a wide variety of experiences—only 18 percent of people reported feeling pain. Some of the other experiences patients reported include:
- An inability to move (42%)
- Hearing noises or voices (37%)
- Feeling non-painful touches (21%)
- An inability to breathe or suffocation (11%)
- “Dreamlike experiences” (5%)