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I've noticed something a bit worrying about the way certain surgeries are performed, and I was wondering if there is a better way:

During surgery, medications are administered to induce unconsciousness, analgesia, amnesia and paralysis. Each of these has a role: unconsciousness as most people would be more than a little uncomfortable seeing their organs in living color, analgesia as the pain of being operated on can be quite significant, amnesia to prevent later trauma, and paralysis so the patient holds still.

I've noticed that while analgesia and paralysis can be independently controlled, anterograde amnesia tends to be more of a happy side effect of medications that induce unconsciousness and analgesia. This can be a problem with surgeries that require consciousness, such as many involving the brain or the spinal cord, or performed on pregnant women, as without severely impairing brain function there is no good way of inducing amnesia for the duration of the surgery. Hence it would seem a number of patients have traumatic memories of their brains being probed on the operating table.

In short, is there a way of inducing anterograde amnesia without the mental "fog" for trauma reduction in surgery?

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    Can you please provide a reference for the part where medicines are used, during the surgery, to intentionally cause amnesia in unconscious patients? What is it that they have to forget about the time during which they were unconscious? – Lucky Jun 8 '15 at 21:55
  • As this article from Stritch School of Medicine explains, one of the main goals of general anaesthesia is amnesia, but not retrograde amnesia, which is what I think you're thinking of. This article from Mayo Clinic touches on the difference in the first few lines. To answer directly, I think you're forgetting about exactly what surgery entails. Memories of being cut open would be very traumatic. – TheEnvironmentalist Jun 9 '15 at 17:03

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