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Anesth Analg. 1992 Apr;74(4):503-9.

Complications occurring in the postanesthesia care unit: a survey.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510.


To identify and quantitate complications occurring in the postanesthesia care unit (PACU), a prospective study evaluated 18,473 consecutive patients entering a PACU at a university teaching hospital. Using a standardized collection form, the incidence of intraoperative and PACU complications was determined. The combined PACU and intraoperative complication rate was 26.7%. Data showed a PACU complication rate of 23.7%, with an overall intraoperative complication rate of 5.1%. Nausea and vomiting (9.8%), the need for upper airway support (6.9%), and hypotension requiring treatment (2.7%) were the most frequently encountered PACU complications. Patients in whom PACU complications developed were analyzed by ASA physical status. Of all patients experiencing nausea and vomiting (n = 1571), the highest percentage were ASA physical status II patients (n = 831). Likewise, in the group of 1450 patients who demonstrated a need for upper airway support, 792 were ASA physical status II. In patients experiencing a major cardiovascular complication, for example, variables associated with a greater risk of developing any PACU complications were ASA physical status (status II), duration of anesthesia (2-4 h), anesthetic technique, emergency procedures, and certain types of surgical procedures (orthopedic or abdominal). For patients admitted with a temperature of less than 35 degrees C the duration of the PACU stay was 152 +/- 46 min compared with 116 +/- 65 min for patients with a temperature greater than or equal to 36 degrees C (P less than 0.01). In conclusion, events occurring during the PACU period continue to be a source of patient morbidity.

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