Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The largest ever study of awareness during obstetric general anaesthesia shows around 1 in 250 women may be affected, and some may experience long-term psychological harm.

ECG monitor screen

Accidental awareness occurs when a patient is temporarily conscious during a general anaesthetic and can remember things that happened during surgery, perhaps feeling pain or being unable to move. More commonly however, awareness occurs during the transition at the very start or end of a general anaesthetic (i.e. before and after surgery), as the patient is going to sleep or waking up. Although accidental awareness during general anaesthesia is rare, and the experiences usually only lasted for a few seconds or minutes, the complication remains an important concern for both patients and anaesthetists.

A new study co-authored by Professor Jaideep Pandit and published in Anaesthesia, shows that 1 in 256 women undergoing pregnancy-related surgery, including caesarean section, under general anaesthesia experienced awareness – a figure much higher than reported before. A recent national audit into accidental awareness (NAP5 - of which Professor Pandit is the lead author) indicated that approximately 1 in every 19,000 patients undergoing general anaesthesia spontaneously reported accidental awareness to medical staff. Although this incidence varied for different types of surgery and patient subgroups, the infrequency of reports was reassuring.

The full story is available on the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences website

Similar stories

Population-scale study highlights ongoing risk of COVID-19 in some cancer patients despite vaccination

COVID-19 vaccination is effective in most cancer patients, but the level of protection against COVID-19 infection, hospitalisation and death offered by the vaccine is less than in the general population and vaccine effectiveness wanes more quickly.

New reporting guidelines developed to improve AI in healthcare settings

New reporting guidelines, jointly published in Nature Medicine and the BMJ by Oxford researchers, will ensure that early studies on using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to treat real patients will give researchers the information needed to develop AI systems safely and effectively.

Major boost for Oxford’s mission to counter future pandemic threats

The Moh Family Foundation has given a substantial gift to support the work of Oxford University’s Pandemic Sciences Institute, greatly strengthening its ability to identify and counter future pandemic threats and ensure equitable access to treatments and vaccines around the world.

Three NHSBT research units launch at University of Oxford

The NIHR has awarded three new Blood and Transplant Research Units (BTRUs) to the University of Oxford.

Fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose provides stronger immunity boost than third dose, shows UK study

COVID-19 vaccines given as fourth doses in the UK offer excellent boosting immunity protection, according to the latest results from a nationwide NIHR-supported study.