Principles of Anatomy & Physiology

Discussions on The Human Body

Anaesthesia awareness – why use a paralytic?

According to a 2004 US study, approximately 1-2 in a thousand patients who undergo general anaesthesia in the US (this amounts to 20,000-40,000 people, out of a total of 20 million who undergo GA each year) will experience “anaesthesia awareness”; becoming conscious during surgery, and in 42% of cases feeling the pain of the procedure.

Because a paralytic is administered routinely as a part of GA, patients who experience anaesthesia awareness are unable to notify the surgeons of their pain, and are essentially tortured (albeit accidentally) during the operation.

My question is this – why is a paralytic so necessary that this risk would be taken for it’s sake? The only thing I can think of is to suppress reflex movements that could interfere with the procedure, but it seems that there should be some way to solve this problem without complete paralysis of the peripheral nervous system. Perhaps a spinal nerve block near the cervical vertibrae in addition to the paralytic? You wouldn’t be able to move, but you couldn’t feel pain below the neck either.

Insight anyone?

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