MUSC Professor Discusses Rarity of Anesthesia Awareness

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Dr. Guidry sheds light on Awake's portrayal of intraoperative awareness.


I don't think we can absolutely prevent it, but we can decrease its incidence

Professor of Anesthesiology Orin Guidry, MD, from the Medical University of South Carolina was featured in a recent USA Today article discussing the growing concern of anesthesia awareness occurring with the release of the new film Awake starring Hayden Christensen and Jessica Alba, where a patient experiences consciousness during surgery.

Intraoperative awareness occurs when a patient becomes conscious but remains paralyzed during an operation. "It is a variety of sensations, all the way from a fleeting recall of something that might have happened in the beginning or the end of the operation progressing in severity all the way to the horrible experience that's portrayed in the movie," Guidry said in a recent MUSC video interview on anesthesia awareness. Although studies show that instances of anesthetic awareness occur in only 0 .1% of procedures, Guidry says that anesthesiologists should try to do all they can to prevent any occurrence of this condition.

Dr. Guidry would like to use medical expertise and safety precautions to bring the number of awareness instances down. "I don't think we can absolutely prevent it, but we can decrease its incidence," he said. Doctors and surgeons at MUSC often use "level of consciousness" monitors during procedures requiring anesthesia. These monitors give doctors a guide to the depth of anesthesia that the patient is experiencing.

For patients who have a fear of general anesthesia after viewing Awake, Guidry also suggests a meeting with an anesthesiologist to discuss the procedure and prescriptions the patient is currently on. The doctor also recommends that the patient has a very frank and honest discussion about use of recreational drugs or alcohol, as they can inhibit the anesthesia.

Guidry joined the faculty of MUSC in 2007 and is the former President of the American Society of Anesthesiologists and American Board of Anesthesiology. He is currently the director of the American Board of Medical Specialties and the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research.

About MUSC
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the south. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC is home to over 3,000 students and residents, as well as nearly 10,000 employees, including 1,300 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the University and its affiliates have collective budgets in excess of $1.3 billion per year. MUSC operates a 600 bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children's Hospital and a leading Institute of Psychiatry. For more information on academic information or clinical services visit or


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