How prevalent is anesthesia awareness?

Thankfully, the prevalence of anesthesia awareness is not very high; generally, less than 1% of the patients who are given anesthesia either wake up or move during surgery. In this video, anesthesiologist Yael Varnado, MD, explains these statistics.

Awareness during anesthesia implies that during a period of intended general anesthesia, the brain is aroused by stimuli that are stored in memory for future explicit recall. It has an estimated incidence between 0.007-0.91. Thus, with over 20 million general anesthetics performed yearly in the United States, the occurrence can be striking. Consequently, in 2004, The Joint Commission issued an alert stating that anesthesia awareness is an "under-recognized and under-treated" problem in health care organizations. The incidence in trauma patients is even more alarming and has been shown to range from 11-43% in various studies.

Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgery
According to recent reports, the incidence of anesthesia awareness is between 1-2 per 1,000 patients. Approximately 20,000-40,000 patients out of the 20 million United States surgeries performed annually experience some form of anesthesia awareness. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

For the 20 million patients wheeled into surgical suites across the US every year, general anesthesia will be given without incident. Still, 1 in 1000 patients will experience anesthesia awareness every year. Researchers have tried to figure out who is most likely to be at risk for the event, but few factors have emerged.


Continue Learning about Anesthesia for Surgical Procedures

What is the goal of giving general anesthesia?
Dr. Michael Roizen, MDDr. Michael Roizen, MD
Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer for the Cleveland Clinic, explains the goal of giving pat...
More Answers
How can I help prevent having anesthesia awareness?
Yael S. Varnado-Rhodes, MDYael S. Varnado-Rhodes, MD
As a patient, the most crucial thing you can do to prevent anesthesia awareness is communicate openl...
More Answers
How is an anesthesia monitor used?
Patricia Bartley DanielePatricia Bartley Daniele
Bispectral index monitoring(BIS) is used to assess the level of consciousness, depth of anesthesia. ...
More Answers
When is general anesthesia used in dental procedures?
American Dental AssociationAmerican Dental Association
Complex dental treatments may require drugs that can induce "deep sedation," causing a loss of feeli...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.