The optimal consciousness level required for general anesthesia with surgery is unclear, but in existing practice, anesthetic oblivion, may be incomplete. This article discusses the concept of consciousness, how it is altered by anesthetics, the challenges for assessing consciousness, currently used technologies for assessing anesthesia levels, and future research directions. Wakefulness is marked by a subjective experience of existence (consciousness), perception of input from the body or the environment (connectedness), the ability for volitional responsiveness, and a sense of continuity in time. Anesthetic drugs may selectively impair some of these components without complete extinction of the subjective experience of existence. In agreement with Sanders et al. (2012), the authors propose that a state of disconnected consciousness is the optimal level of anesthesia, as it likely avoids both awareness and the possible dangers of oversedation. However, at present, there are no reliably tested indices that can discriminate between connected consciousness, disconnected consciousness, and complete unconsciousness.

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