Awareness with recall following general anesthesia
- Michael Avidan, MD
Michael Avidan, MD
- Section Editor — Surgical Critical Care
- Professor of Anesthesiology and Surgery
- Washington University School of Medicine
- George A Mashour, MD, PhD
George A Mashour, MD, PhD
- Bert N La Du Professor of Anesthesiology Research
- Director, Center for Consciousness Science
- University of Michigan Medical School
The phrase awareness with recall (AWR) refers to both intraoperative consciousness and explicit recall of intraoperative events. The most important contributing factor for AWR is underdosing of anesthetic agents relative to the patient's specific requirements. Although the incidence of AWR may be reduced with preventive measures, it may not be eradicated completely. Thus, all patients undergoing general anesthesia should be informed that AWR is rare, but can occur.
This topic will discuss the risk factors, sequelae, and prevention of AWR after general anesthesia.
Awareness experiences range from isolated auditory perceptions to reports of a patient being fully awake, immobilized, and in pain. Incidence of AWR varies widely due to methodological differences in postoperative assessment of awareness and differences in anesthetic practice . Although the most common outcome measured is postoperative recall for the awareness event, intraoperative consciousness and explicit recall of intraoperative events may be dissociated from each other. In one study, only one in four patients with evidence of intraoperative awareness had explicit postoperative recall of the event .
Large, prospective, multicenter studies of awareness with recall (AWR) in adult patients undergoing surgery with general anesthesia have reported an incidence of 1 to 2 cases/1000 in North America and Europe [3-8]. Studies with prospective patient interviews that specifically inquire about awareness have noted an incidence of 0.1 to 0.2 percent in the general population and approximately 1 percent in high-risk populations [3,4,7,8]. The fifth National Audit Project (NAP-5) in the United Kingdom was a very large retrospective study that did not include patient interviews; the reported incidence was 1 in 15,000 to 1 in 19,000 [9,10]. This probably reflects under-detection since patients were not interviewed to assess AWR .
In children, the incidence of AWR after general anesthesia is slightly higher, between 0.2 to 1.2 percent . Pooled data from a combined sample of five cohort studies involving 4486 pediatric anesthetics revealed 33 cases of awareness. Assessing the presence of AWR in children, however, poses a number of challenges related to developmental factors and the accuracy of postoperative interviews [13,14].To continue reading this article, you must log in with your personal, hospital, or group practice subscription. For more information on subscription options, click below on the option that best describes you:
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- IDENTIFICATION AND MANAGEMENT
- RISK FACTORS: ANESTHETIC UNDERDOSING
- Total intravenous anesthesia
- Neuromuscular blockade
- Resistance or tolerance to anesthetics
- Type of surgery
- Technical issues
- Manage patient expectations
- - End-tidal anesthetic concentration
- - Neuromonitoring
- Adjuvant medications
- Avoidance of complete neuromuscular blockade
- PUBLISHED GUIDELINES
- SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS