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Accidental awareness during general anaesthesia with recall is a potentially distressing complication of general anaesthesia that can lead to psychological harm. The 5th National Audit Project was designed to investigate the reported incidence, predisposing factors, causality and impact of accidental awareness. A nationwide network of local co-ordinators across all UK and Irish public hospitals reported all new patient reports of accidental awareness to a central database, using a system of monthly anonymised reporting over a calendar year. The database collected the details of the reported event, anaesthetic and surgical technique, and any sequelae. These reports were categorised into main types by a multidisciplinary panel, using a formalised process of analysis. The main categories of accidental awareness were: certain or probable; possible; during sedation; on or from the intensive care unit; could not be determined; unlikely; drug errors; and statement only. The degree of evidence to support the categorisation was also defined for each report. Patient experience and sequelae were categorised using current tools or modifications of such. The 5th National Audit Project methodology may be used to assess new reports of accidental awareness during general anaesthesia in a standardised manner, especially for the development of an ongoing database of case reporting. This paper is a shortened version describing the protocols, methods and data analysis from 5th National Audit Project - the full report can be found at

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1078 - 1088


Anesthesia, General, Clinical Protocols, Data Interpretation, Statistical, Humans, Intraoperative Awareness, Medical Audit