Recall or awareness under general anesthesia, also known as intra-operative awareness, occurs when a patient regains consciousness and becomes aware of certain events that occur during surgery. While new brain wave monitors may prove helpful in reducing the risk of awareness, none of these technologies are currently perfected.
Approximately 0.1 to 0.2 percent of adult patients undergoing general anesthesia report awareness. There are a number of causes for this. The most common cause is the use of light anesthesia, as is common for emergency trauma surgery or high-risk surgery where a deep level of anesthesia would not be tolerated by the patient.
Because awareness under general anesthesia is extremely rare, it should not be viewed as a reason to avoid surgery. In the unlikely event of intra-operative awareness, discuss this with your anesthesiologist as soon as possible after the procedure.