Anesthetic Awareness

Patient awareness under general anesthesia (or anesthetic awareness) is a rare experience that occurs when surgical patients can recall their surroundings or an event – sometimes even pressure or pain –related to their surgery while they were under general anesthesia. In some cases patients may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder following an awareness experience. While severe cases of anesthetic awareness are uncommon, research is ongoing to determine the causes of awareness and ways to prevent it from happening.


Patient Awareness Brochure (PDF)

Anesthesia AdministrationAlthough awareness under general anesthesia is rare, this brochure was created by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists to explain this phenomenon, address questions patients may have, and assist patients in communicating with their anesthesia provider.

Estado de Alerta Consciente del Paciente Bajo Anestesia General – Qué Significa? (PDF)

A pesar de la rareza del estado de alerta, los miembros de la Asociacion Americana de Enfermeros Anestesistas y la Sociedad Americana de Anestesiologos desean hacer de su conocimiento esta posibilidad. Estas organizaciones han estado estudiando este asunto y estan en proceso de evaluar la efectividad de varias tecnologias y tecnicas parap siminuir las probabilidades de que esto occurra.

Anesthetic Awareness Fact Sheet
Are some surgeries more susceptible to cases of anesthetic awareness than others? What are the causes of anesthetic awareness? Answers to these and other questions can be found on the fact sheet. 

If You Experience Anesthesia Awareness

If you have experienced the trauma from an anesthetic awareness event, see the helpful resources along with the opportunity to share your story and find support at:

  1. Anesthesia Awareness Registry:
    • Email Carol Weihrer, the creator of the Anesthesia Awareness Campaign, who said she’ll be glad to help any person who contacts her at:
  3. Book: Silenced Screams by Jeanette Liska, published by the AANA in 2002, available in the AANA Bookstore
    An excerpt from Silenced Screams:
    Patient's Role Following Intraoperative Awareness
    1. Inform your anesthesia provider about the event.
    2. Be specific as to what was experienced.
    3. Ask for a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist.
    4. Do not fear the need for anesthesia in the future since the complication may not occur again.
    5. Listen to the explanation given by the anesthesia provider. There may be a reasonable explanation for what is an unavoidable complication in some situations.