Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What if the anesthetic didn't work?


…HA had this happen—briefly—on one eye surgery. It was not numbed…She FELT it and was awake and talking so she could point that out immediately. Make that BEFORE immediately. They knocked her out again to restick the eye with needles.

…In all fairness, in all her other surgeries, it occurred to her that she might not go under, then blackness…out!

…But now there is a movie out called ‘Awake’ in which a guy feels a scalpel cut into his skin. (His doctors are trying to kill him, which may be a spoiler, so this was not a mistake.)

…But HA has seen stories on cable about the anesthetic not working sometimes. Although she tries not to freak you out or lead you astray, HA is mentioning this because the NYT dealt with the impact of the movie on medical practice.

…Melissa Lafsky wrote the story (Dec 11, 2007). This happens. It’s called anesthetic awareness—the patient is not far enough under.

…The American Society of Anesthesiologists warned their members to be aware of the movie. They didn’t like the line, “’Awake’ will do for surgery what ‘Jaws’ did for swimming in the ocean.”

…Yeah, good one.

…The problem is, when you are under full anesthesia, you may also be paralyzed with a breathing tube down your throat. You can’t show that something is awry. The number of people who experience this each year may be 20,000 to 40,000 of the 21 million patients who undergo anesthesia. Someone else changed this to 1,400. Quite a spread there.

…If this worries you, ask when the anesthesiogist comes around for that little “chat” before your surgery. Tell him or her about any other problems or incidents you have had. Spit it out—ask. HA believes there are ways the anesthsiologist can tell from your heart activity that you might be too lightly sedated.

…If this is freaking you out just reading this, HA says, don’t see the movie.

…Movies aren't the best way to learn about medical matters. Would you consult Hannibal Lecter for recipes?

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