Minor surgery may just require localized painkillers, which means that you’re awake the entire time. For instance, some people have their wisdom teeth removed in this fashion.
For major surgery — and, often, even for wisdom teeth — people are given medication that essentially renders them unconscious until the procedure is done. They do not feel or remember any of the pain and simply have to focus on the pain that comes with recovery after the fact.
If you’re going in for a procedure like this, you have likely heard that people sometimes wake up when they’re not given the right medication or anesthesia, or when they are not monitored properly and given the incorrect amount. How often does this happen?
It’s less common than previously thought
It’s hard to know exactly how often this happens, but medical experts used to think it was about once for every 1,000 procedures. However, some studies suggest that it’s closer to once for every 19,600 surgeries. This works out to a minuscule 0.005% of all cases.
While it’s safe to say your odds of waking up during surgery are low, remember that there are roughly 21 million surgical procedures every year in the United States. This means that about 1,050 people will wake up during surgery every year, or an average of about three people per day.
If this does happen to you, it can be traumatic and painful. It may also lead to other mistakes as the team tries to correct the problem. For any costs you face as a result, make sure you know what legal options you have. Speaking with an advocate who understands medical malpractice claims may be wise.