December 2, 2023

Patients undergoing surgery are often stressed out by the thought of waking up during the procedure. Though rare, this incident could lead to traumatizing memories of the surgery. That said, can you sue the hospital if you wake up during surgery? Read on to find out.

Anesthesia Awareness

Anesthetics are drugs administered to patients during surgery to prevent them from feeling pain. They also keep you from moving during the surgery, which could be fatal. Different anesthetics are administered depending on the procedures to be performed.

Anesthesia awareness is a condition where a patient regains consciousness during surgery. During this time, the patient is aware of activities around them and, in most cases, may lack the ability to move. They will also not feel pain, although the experience could be traumatizing.

Here are some examples of commonly administered anesthesia

Local Anesthesia

This type of anesthetic numbs an area of the body and can be used during treatment and hospital procedures. Normally, patients to whom this anesthesia is administered stay awake during medical procedures.

General Anesthesia

This anesthetic is administered during complex and lengthy surgeries. Doctors will use intravenous drugs or gases to put patients in a sleep-like state before the surgery.

Regional Anesthesia

Regional anesthesia numbs limbs. It is commonly administered to mothers during childbirth and patients undergoing joint surgery.

Causes of Anesthesia Awareness

Anesthetics may wear out during the surgery due to a couple of reasons, including:

  • Administering wrong doses of anesthesia before surgery – this happens when doctors administer too little anesthesia, which ultimately wears off before the surgery is completed
  • Anesthesia equipment failure – equipment used to administer anesthetics especially inhaled gases, may fail, leading to insufficient doses of anesthesia
  • Medical history of anesthesia resistance- people with a history of drug and alcohol abuse may develop anesthesia resistance. Resistance may also stem from past interactions with the medication

Even though patients who experience anesthesia awareness may not feel pain, they could suffer from psychological conditions such as:

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Increased anxiety
  • Trouble falling asleep and nightmares
  • Fear of future medical treatment

Is Anesthesia Awareness Medical Malpractice?

Anesthesia awareness can be categorized as medical malpractice. Doctors are expected to note your consciousness as soon as you start waking up and should administer another drug dose. If you can prove the damages caused by the anesthesia awareness, you may be awarded compensation for the following:

  • Medical bills if anesthesia awareness damaged your health
  • Physical pain and emotional distress
  • Lost wages if anesthesia awareness affected your ability to work
  • Therapy costs for psychological treatment
  • PTSD, depression, reduced quality of life

Hiring A Lawyer

Proving negligence when dealing with professionals can be challenging. Therefore, it is wise to hire a medical malpractice attorney who is familiar with such cases to increase your chance of recovering compensation.

Your lawyer may be able to help you prove negligence by re-examining your medical reports, anesthesia equipment used at the hospital, and the conduct of the doctor in charge of the surgery.


Anesthesia awareness may vary from patient to patient. While some only have vague memories of the procedure, others are fully aware and may even experience pain.

Regardless of the situation, your medical team is expected to deal with the condition before it gets out of hand.” If you experience any post-operative stress or anxiety resulting from anesthesia awareness, you should hire a lawyer to help you understand your options.” says attorney Larry Eisenberg of Law Offices of Larry S. Eisenberg and Associates.