Awake, a new Hollywood movie featuring a devilishly cunning anesthesiologist, is causing another example of hysteria before the public even has a chance to react to it. Trust your correspondent, an anesthesiologist, on this one: awareness under anesthesia is a multifactorial, complex phenomenon. The American Society of Anesthesiologists has an excellent website that explains anesthesia awareness, and it also keeps the patients registry. So check out these sites, and here’s some more about the movie and the clinical problem from the New York Times:
Called anesthesia awareness, it occurs when patients wake up during surgery because they are underanesthetized. In real life, these periods are generally brief. But the patient can indeed feel pain, ranging from minor to unendurable.
“Those are the two ends of the scale, and there’s everything in between,” said Dr. Peter S. Sebel, a professor of anesthesiology at Emory University and a leading researcher on awareness. “We don’t have a good feel for how many episodes are distressing and how many are not.”
Such nuances may be lost on viewers of “Awake,” which opened Nov. 30 – a date for which anesthesiologists spent months bracing themselves.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists sent e-mail messages to its 40,000 members urging them to be prepared for a possible onslaught of negative press and questions from patients who have seen the film. On Nov. 2, the society’s president, Dr. Jeffrey Apfelbaum of the University of Chicago, advised members to “remain calm regarding the movie.”
Particularly troubling to physicians is the film’s marketing line, which states that “Awake” will “do to surgery what ‘Jaws’ did to swimming in the ocean.”
More at the New York Times…