Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Imagine the Horror: Waking During Surgery

Some patients describe it as “worse than rape,” and it happens to people in operating rooms every day. Patients wake up in the middle of surgery, “paralyzed and unable to cry for help.” According to a USA Today report from 2003, as many as 100 people a day (2 out of every 1000 surgeries) wake up during a surgical procedure.

While half of those who experience this utter horror don’t feel pain, it’s terrifying either way. One eye surgery patient, Carol Weihrer, described “tremendous pulling,” but no pain. "It takes a lot of torque to get an eye out,” she said. During the 5 hour procedure, Weihrer was awake for two. In the background, she could here disco music. (Read more about Weihrer’s experience in
this 2005 CNN article).

I heard about this last week on the July 26th edition of Anderson Cooper 360,
which you can download here.

In the show, I learned that they have brain wave monitoring devices that can signal doctors when a patient regains consciousness. But they’re not available in many operating rooms. Even when they are, they’re not always used. And according to the USA Today, these machines only reduce “surgical awareness” by 82 percent.

Is it me, or is a single case of waking up while a surgeon is pulling your eye out of your skull, with disco music playing in the background, one too many? Why aren’t these brain wave scanners in all operating rooms, used during every procedure and the effectiveness rate closer to 100 percent?

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.