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Br J Anaesth. 2004 Sep;93(3):333-8. Epub 2004 Jul 9.

Relationship between nocturnal hypoxaemia, tachycardia and myocardial ischaemia after major abdominal surgery.

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Department of Surgical Gastroenterology 435, Department of Cardiology, Hvidovre University Hospital, DK-2650 Hvidovre, Denmark.



Episodic hypoxaemia, cardiac arrhythmias, and myocardial ischaemia may be related after major abdominal surgery.


We studied 52 patients on the second and third nights after major abdominal operations, using continuous pulse oximetry and Holter ECG. We recorded the amount of time spent with oxygen saturation values less than 90, 85, and 80% during the night, and noted episodes of hypoxaemia, tachycardia, bradycardia, and ST-segment changes.


In 87 study nights there were 2403 (individual range 1-229) episodes of hypoxaemia, 3509 (individual range 1-234) episodes of tachycardia, and 265 (individual range 1-73) episodes of ST segment deviation. Of the 52 patients, 50 had episodes of hypoxaemia and tachycardia, and 19 patients had one or more episodes of ST segment deviation. For 38% of the episodes of ST deviation, there was an episode of hypoxaemia at the same time and in 16% there was an episode of tachycardia. ST deviation was only noted in 4% of the episodes of hypoxaemia and in 1% of the episodes of tachycardia.


Episodes of hypoxaemia and tachycardia frequently occur together after surgery but are rarely associated with ST deviation. Hypoxaemia or tachycardia is often present at the same time as ST deviation occurs.

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