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Br J Anaesth. 1993 Sep;71(3):340-7.

Perioperative monitoring with pulse oximetry and late postoperative cognitive dysfunction.

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  • 1Department of Anaesthesia, Herlev Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


In a randomized, blinded clinical study, we have used objective and subjective measures to determine if perioperative monitoring with pulse oximetry--by virtue of its potential to lessen hypoxaemia--would decrease late postoperative cognitive dysfunction. We investigated 736 adult patients undergoing elective procedures (other than cardiac, neurosurgical or for cancer) under regional or general anaesthesia, allocated randomly to undergo (group I) or not to undergo (group II) pulse oximetry monitoring in the operating theatre and recovery room. Cognitive function was evaluated using the Wechsler memory scale (WMS) and continuous reaction time (RT) test the day before surgery, and on the 7th day after operation or at discharge if that occurred before postoperative day 7. A questionnaire sent 6 weeks after surgery elicited patients' subjective perceptions regarding cognitive abilities. There were no significant differences between the two groups in either the total WMS score, the score for each WMS subtests or RT test. The questionnaire revealed that 7% in group I and 11% in group II believed cognitive abilities had decreased (ns). For the 40 patients whose WMS scores were 10 points less after than before operation, a follow-up study was undertaken 3 months after surgery. At that time, the median WMS score had returned to the preoperative value. We conclude that, for these 736 patients, subjective and objective measures did not indicate less postoperative cognitive impairment after perioperative monitoring with pulse oximetry.

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