The third state of consciousness under the knife

Are we really unconscious under general anaesthetic?

BBC: Having a general anaesthetic is a routine part of many operations. But what happens if you are still conscious after you close your eyes?
You are in the operating theatre. Anaesthetic has been administered and the countdown to unconsciousness begins.

For most people, the next thing they will remember is being roused from a deep sleep.
But in a small minority of cases, complete unconsciousness never comes.
Being awake during surgery and not being able to do anything about it is every patient’s worst nightmare.

But according to one of the country’s leading anaesthetists, it may not be as simple as saying that someone is either asleep or awake.

Prof Jaideep Pandit, consultant anaesthetist at the Oxford University Hospitals, believes there is an alternative “third state” of consciousness somewhere between sleeping and waking that patients under general anaesthetic can and do experience.
“I call it dysanaesthesia,” he explains. “A type of awareness where the patient is aware of the surgery but is neither conscious nor unconscious.”

A third dimension of consciousness


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