A team of doctors in Finland have discovered patients might never fully lose consciousness under anaesthetic. Picture: Thinkstock
A team of doctors in Finland have discovered patients might never fully lose consciousness under anaesthetic. Picture: Thinkstock

Have you been awake under the knife?

IT'S enough to give you nightmares.

The thought of waking up on the operating table, unable to tell the doctors around you that you're conscious.

Now a team of doctors in Finland have discovered patients might never fully lose consciousness under anaesthetic.

Researchers believe the brain loses memory of the event when under anaesthetic. 
Picture: iStock
Researchers believe the brain loses memory of the event when under anaesthetic. Picture: iStock

They believe while you might not lose full consciousness the brain does lose memory of the event - hence why you wake up none the wiser.

Dr Harry Scheinin from Terveystalo Pulssi Hospital and the University of Turku in Finland, told Livescience: "The brain is working more than we have thought during general anaesthesia.

As part of their study, the team scanned the brains of patients who had been given a dose of anaesthesia.

In the first experiment they shook the volunteers and shouted at them while they were out for the count.

Most of the patients told the doctors they had dreams while unconscious.

Dr Scheinin said it's possible that general anaesthetic is more similar to a dreaming state, than experts once thought.

In an experiment, the brain was found to process sounds while under anaesthetic. Picture: Supplied
In an experiment, the brain was found to process sounds while under anaesthetic. Picture: Supplied

A second experiment involved researchers playing unpleasant noises to volunteers, both while they were "under", and again when they were awake.

Those sounds played both while the patients were asleep and awake provoked more reaction than new noises.

It suggests the brain was processing those sounds while under anaesthetic.

A second study, tested volunteers under anaesthetic, playing recordings of sentences with bizarre words at the end.

Dr Scheinin said when a person is awake hearing an unexpected word would cause more of a reaction than an expected one.

Brain scans, again keeping an eye on activity, showed a spike at the end of the sentences, suggesting the brain is hearing and processing the info despite being unconscious.

Generic of team of medical staff, doctors, nurses, surgeons, etc, looking down on a patient about to undergo surgery (operation) in a hospital operating theatre as the overhead lights blaze away. Picture: Thinkstock
Generic of team of medical staff, doctors, nurses, surgeons, etc, looking down on a patient about to undergo surgery (operation) in a hospital operating theatre as the overhead lights blaze away. Picture: Thinkstock

Allan Leslie Combs, director of the California Institute of Integral Studies Center for Consciousness Studies, who wasn't involved in the studies, told Livescience the evidence "confirms that consciousness is rarely ever lost".

He said it's likely that a person might not lose consciousness, but rather lose their memory of the event.

He added that only light anaesthesia was used in the tests, and so it might be different for larger doses.

And Dr Scheinin said other drugs used during surgery might also play a role in altering the true results.

The new studies are published in the July issue of the British Journal of Anaesthesia.

 

This article originally appeared on The Sun and is republished with permission.



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