Shh the patient's listening!

Published: Saturday 15 April 2000

Surgeons should watch what they say as new evidence suggests that patients under general anaesthesia may actually be hearing conversations inside the operating theatre. Clinical considerations make it desirable to give the lowest dose of the anaesthetic to the patient. But doctors must ensure that care should be taken to prevent the patient overhearing operating theatre conversations that may affect their mental health without leaving a conscious memory says Jackie Andrade of the University of Sheffield, UK. Especially if there is any danger to patient and the doctors discuss during the operation. Giving reassuring messages would be beneficial to the patient. Unlike people who were drugged and not operated upon, subjects who were not only sedated but who also underwent surgery did have some memory for the words that they experienced during their operations. Andrade found that they had what is known as 'implicit memory'.

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