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Anesthesiology. 2002 Jul;97(1):108-15.

Anesthetic-related cardiac arrest and its mortality: a report covering 72,959 anesthetics over 10 years from a US teaching hospital.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska 68198-4455, USA.



A prospective and retrospective case analysis study of all perioperative cardiac arrests occurring during a 10-yr period from 1989 to 1999 was done to determine the incidence, cause, and outcome of cardiac arrests attributable to anesthesia.


One hundred forty-four cases of cardiac arrest within 24 h of surgery were identified over a 10-yr period from an anesthesia database of 72,959 anesthetics. Case abstracts were reviewed by a Study Commission composed of external and internal members in order to judge which cardiac arrests were anesthesia-attributable and which were anesthesia-contributory. The rates of anesthesia-attributable and anesthesia-contributory cardiac arrest were estimated.


Fifteen cardiac arrests out of a total number of 144 were judged to be related to anesthesia. Five cardiac arrests were anesthesia-attributable, resulting in an anesthesia-attributable cardiac arrest rate of 0.69 per 10,000 anesthetics (95% confidence interval, 0.085-1.29). Ten cardiac arrests were found to be anesthesia-contributory, resulting in an anesthesia-contributory rate of 1.37 per 10,000 anesthetics (95% confidence interval, 0.52-2.22). Causes of the cardiac arrests included medication-related events (40%), complications associated with central venous access (20%), problems in airway management (20%), unknown or possible vagal reaction in (13%), and one perioperative myocardial infarction. The risk of death related to anesthesia-attributable perioperative cardiac arrest was 0.55 per 10,000 anesthetics (95% confidence interval, 0.011-1.09).


Most perioperative cardiac arrests were related to medication administration, airway management, and technical problems of central venous access. Improvements focused on these three areas may result in better outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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