Study finds people aren’t asleep during surgery!

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

A medical professional injects anesthesia into an injured patient.

Back in the day, patients had to undergo surgery while completely conscious, so the operating room was a scene of screams and pain. Nowadays though, the picture is much less gruesome with anesthesia  – a medicine that blocks pain and puts us to sleep. After all, we’re supposed to stay unconscious until the operation is over, but a new study shows that some patients linger in between consciousness and unconsciousness.

Oh no! I saw a movie related to this called Awake. The main character went into surgery, but the anesthesia only paralyzed his movements, not his mind. Since he was awake during the entire operation, he could feel everything. Ouch. Do the patients experiencing this strange state of mind feel pain, too? Apparently not.

In the study from Hull Royal Infirmary in England, 34 volunteers were given the pain-reducing medicine, however, the researchers blocked it from reaching their arms. Under anesthesia’s influence, their bodies shouldn’t have moved, but one third of the test subjects jerked their fingers when the doctors told them to!

Since they only moved their hands on demand, anesthetist Dr. Jaideep Pandit – who wrote an editorial on the study – claims the patients were neither conscious nor unconscious. Instead, they lingered in a realm he calls “dysanaesthesia.” Well, does that mean they’re uncomfortable, like the character in Awake? According to Pandit, “What’s more remarkable is that they only move their fingers if they are asked. None of the patients spontaneously responded to the surgery. They are presumably not in pain.”

Although dysanaesthesia appears to be harmless, he says it can’t hurt to find out more about the state of consciousness. “It’s a hypothesis for future research, it’s something that we can explore further and design experiment to see if it really exist,” he said.

Featured image courtesy of Official U.S. Navy Imagery on Flickr.