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Anaesthesia. 1992 Feb;47(2):110-5.

Late postoperative nocturnal dips in oxygen saturation in patients undergoing major abdominal vascular surgery. Predictive value of pre-operative overnight pulse oximetry.

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  • 1Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington.


Twenty-four patients (23 male) who presented for aortic reconstructive surgery were studied with pulse oximetry on a pre-operative night and during the first five postoperative nights. Patients with five or more dips in oxygen saturation of greater than 4% (with a prompt recovery back toward baseline of 3% or more) per hour of monitoring were classified as having a significant abnormality of respiration. Pre-operatively, four of 24 patients (17%) demonstrated such an abnormality. Postoperatively, 12 patients (50%) met these criteria on at least one of the first five postoperative nights and six of these had two or more nights with severe episodic hypoxaemia. Frequent severe episodic dips in arterial oxygen saturation (to less than 85% saturation) occurred in the late postoperative period at a time when oxygen therapy would usually have been discontinued. Pre-operative overnight pulse oximetry studies fail to predict the development of abnormal respiratory patterns in the postoperative period in the majority of patients.

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