I'm Scheduled for Surgery.

Most surgeries go very smoothly. This brochure, while posing some worrisome issues, is meant to help you obtain the best care possible; not to cause undue fear about having surgery under full general anesthesia. The information contained represents only the experience and views of one person, Carol Weihrer, and is reflective of knowledge gained through personal research and speaking with professionals. She, personally, would rather have experienced some apprehension and a smooth surgery rather than live with an incident of Anesthesia Awareness and its devastating aftermath. This article is for information only, and does not represent medical advice from a trained physician; nor does it present a reason not to have necessary surgery. This information is intended to provide a information you can use to do everything in your power to protect yourself from this potentially devastating problem through knowledge that leads to empowerment and prevention.
How can I protect mysef from Anesthesia Awareness?
A Layman's Guide to What You Should Ask Before Surgery.

What Is Anesthesia Awareness?

Anesthesia awareness is perhaps the most helpless and terrifying feeling in the world.  It occurs when one is supposed to be completely asleep under general anesthesia, but the brain is not asleep.  The body is usually paralyzed, and movement of any sort is absolutely impossible.  There is a tube down your throat, so you can't speak or yell; in fact, you can't even breathe without mechanical help.  If you do manage to move, as I did, a common response from the anesthesia provider is to administer more paralytic drug, never considering the possibility of awareness.  The paralytic drug burns like ignited fuel flowing though your circulatory system.      Anesthesia Awareness is frequently likened to being "entombed in a corpse" or buried alive.
Inquire about what kinds of monitors will be used, and if any equipment owned by the hospital is not routinely used (like brain activity monitors).  Specifically, find out about awareness monitors, such as the BIS monitor or other monitors that measure level of consciousness.

I've Vaguely Heard of Anesthesia Awareness.  Is It Real?

Anesthesia Awareness is slowly coming out of the closet, and I'm proud to say this Campaign has played a large part in that!  The anesthesia community usually avoids talking about awareness, seldom includes its possibility in the preoperative interview (also known as informed consent, where you will always be told you can die, but are not informed about the possibility of awareness), will almost always deny any possibility that one of their patients may have experienced awareness, downplays the terror of the event, and will always assure you that it can't/never will happen to you.
Despite the fact that all of the media refer to the phenomonen as "anesthesia awareness," and that is by far the most frequently used term, the ASA has decided to rename it "unintended intraoperative recall." 

What Causes Anesthesia Awareness?

Your best defense is an active offense.

What Can I Do To Protect Myself and My Loved Ones from Experiencing Anesthesia Awareness? 

I am keenly aware that the mere ownership of  brain activity monitors does not solve the problem of anesthesia awareness. I tell those with whom I speak that they must ask three questions:

1. Does your facility own brain activity monitors? They can't be used "at the individual practitioner's discretion" if there are none available!

2. Does your facility use brain activity monitors? Having them doesn't guarantee their use.  Many hospitals own them, largely due to lawsuits, but never use them!  I know; it's the case at the hospital where my awareness occurred.

3. Will you your facility use brain activity monitors in my surgery?
Try to get this in writing, because the person who promises to use a monitor may not end up being your anesthesia provider.