Lifewatch: Anesthesia Awareness

WILMINGTON -- It's a medical nightmare when sedation wears off during surgery and you wake up paralyzed and unable to speak.

Anesthesia Awareness is estimated to happen to about 100 patients a day.

That nightmare came true for Angela DeLessio when she woke up during an emergency C-section.

"You have a scalpel a knife being taken into your body, and you're being cut open, it's as horrible as you would think it would be," said DeLessio.

About 21 million people are put to sleep in an operating room each year, and about 20-40 thousand people wake up at some point during the procedure.

"It happens, but it's a rare event and it's not something that people should be totally alarmed about," said Dr. James E. Cottrell of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Now, thousands of doctors use a special brain monitor to help alert them if a patient starts to wake up.

"The technologies significantly lower, by at least 80 percent, the risk of being awake during your anesthetic," said Dr. Marc Bloom, who does research with Aspect Medical Systems, a manufacturer of the monitor.

About 60% of all United States operating rooms have access to this type to technology, but it isn't used for every procedure.

The monitor isn't perfect: it doesn't account for all indicators of awareness and it can cost betwen five and nine-thousand dollars.

"This is the opportunity for the medical community to step up and do something positive with this, so that this never needs to happen," said DeLessio

Reported by Kristy Ondo