"The results suggest that intra-operative awareness does not necessarily increase the risk of PTSD and other mental health problems."
London, June 22 - Patients with confirmed episodes of awareness during anaesthesia and surgery do not seem to be at increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), says a study.

We found no indication that intra-operative awareness with recall had any long-term effects on patients' psychosocial outcome, said Tanja Laukkala from Centre for Military Medicine in Helsinki, Finland.

The long-term follow-up study included nine patients with a documented episode of intra-operative awareness during general anaesthesia.

All patients had definite awareness with recall - they accurately described events that occurred during their surgery.

A median of 17.2 years after their episode of intra-operative awareness, the patients were evaluated on a battery of tests of psychosocial well-being.

Assessment included formal diagnostic interviews for PTSD, along with anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders.

Nine patients with similar characteristics - who had undergone surgery without intra-operative awareness - were studied for comparison.

The results showed no significant difference in psychosocial outcomes for the patients with and without intra-operative awareness.

In particular, none of the patients with intra-operative awareness were diagnosed with PTSD.

In fact, in no patient did the episode of intra-operative awareness meet criteria for being a potentially traumatic event of the type leading to PTSD.

Other measures of psychosocial well-being, including quality of life ratings, were also similar between groups.

A few patients in each group had depression or other psychiatric disorders.

Ongoing efforts needed to prevent intra-operative awareness with recall is an uncommon but documented complication in patients undergoing general anaesthesia.

Previous studies have suggested that intra-operative awareness may place patients at risk for PTSD and other mental health conditions, such as depression or alcohol abuse.

The results suggest that intra-operative awareness does not necessarily increase the risk of PTSD and other mental health problems.

The study was published in the journal Anaesthesia & Analgesia.


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