by Erika Gulla
Growing up I have heard my dad talk about a range of medical issues from his kidney
stones to his migraines. Although those are interesting, the story that I have found to be most
interesting was the one when he woke up during surgery. My dad was scheduled to get his
gallbladder removed. His doctors came in and explained the procedure and the risks that came
with this surgery. Now, my dad has never fully trusted anesthesia and when he found out that he
had to be put under, it made him very anxious. However, he decided to continue with the surgery
anyway. Once in the operating room, my dad said they had him count backward while the
anesthesiologist put him to sleep.
Skip forward a little and the doctors were a little more than halfway done when my dad
started to wake up. Now, in case you did not know patients aren’t supposed to wake up during
this procedure. It was a shock to everyone, including my dad because he could feel the pain of
the surgery. The only issue was that my dad could not communicate that he was awake. He could
feel the instruments moving, and he could hear the nurses talking about vital signs. He said that
he felt like he was at the complete mercy of the doctors. It wasn’t until the anesthesiologist
noticed that my dad was awake, that they were able to put him back to sleep. The
anesthesiologist could not explain why he woke up but simply said that everyone’s body reacts to
anesthesia differently. They said that for some reason my dad’s body had a higher tolerance to
that specific sedative and so he did not stay asleep for as long as he should have.
This impacted my dad mentally in a negative way because now he will be more hesitant
to get surgery done if he ever were to need one in the future. I don’t know about you but that
would be pretty scary to wake up to. My dad always described this experience as eye-opening
because it’s something that he will never forget, the feeling of being out of control with no way
This type of feeling is often what many people worry about when told they must be put
under anesthesia for surgery (1). Although it is not a highly recognized issue, the amount of
surgeries being canceled each year continues to go up (1). Although cost is a known issue for
why surgeries are canceled (1). One of the more unrecognized reasons is because patients are
unsure about being put under anesthesia (1). According to the National Institutes of Health
organization, a little more than 8% of canceled procedures are due to patients being afraid to be
administered anesthesia (1). Anyone undergoing surgery, or who could have to have surgery in
the future can be affected by this issue (1). A study showed that out of 60,000 surgeries planned
5,000 were canceled by the patient due to anxiety regarding anesthesia (1). This may seem like a
small number, but it is much more significant because these are mainly necessary surgeries that
patients’ are canceling (1). Which negatively impacts both the patients and the hospitals(1). Not
only are hospital equipment, personnel, and resources being wasted but these cancellations are
also causing a lower number of people being able to get surgeries that they need (1).
There is a foundation that has already begun to research the prevention of surgery
cancellations and the relief of pre-surgical related anxiety (1). The National Institute of Health is
a sub-branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services (3). This organization helps
conduct research in order to better the health and lives of people (3). They provide resources for
individuals, doctors, and organizations so patients can become more educated which in turn will
hopefully help lower surgery cancellations (at least the patient-initiated cancellations) (1). This
organization does more than just research they are also focused on educating the public about
how to deal with pre-surgical concerns.
It is simple for you or a loved one to sit down with the doctor and/or anesthesiologist to
discuss any concerns you may have about the procedure being done. This discussion could
include risks, the process of the procedure itself, or what to expect after the procedure is done. If
you were to make yourself more knowledgeable about your surgery or a loved ones’ surgery then
your fears would fade away. Which in turn will immensely decrease the number of necessary
surgeries that are canceled every year. This would actually be saving lives. There
are also some resources that can calm you or your loved one’s nerves about surgery and
anesthesia. This website focuses on the three most common fears when it comes to being put
under anesthesia, and I urge you to read this article (4).
The next articles have advice about how to deal with surgical fears.
So please encourage friends and family members to ask questions and to read these vitally
helpful articles before simply turning away from getting a much-needed surgery in the future.
- Reasons for Surgery Cancellation in a General Hospital: A 10-year Study. National Institute of
- Patient Safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Who We Are. National Institute of Health.
- 3 of the Most Common Anesthesia Fears Debunked. Northside Hospital.
- Understanding and Dealing With a Fear of Surgery. VeryWellHealth.
- What Can Help Relieve Anxiety Before Surgery?. National Center for Biotechnology.