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Anaesth Intensive Care. 2006 Dec;34(6):724-30.

Adenotonsillar surgery in morbidly obese children: routine elective admission of all patients to the intensive care unit is unnecessary.

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Department of Paediatric Otolaryngology, Princess Margaret Hospital, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.


Morbidly obese children undergoing adenotonsillectomy, often with co-morbid obstructive sleep apnoea, may be considered at a higher risk of postoperative respiratory compromise. This retrospective study aimed to assess the frequency and severity of postoperative respiratory complications in these patients and to identify preoperative risks factors for such morbidity. Medical and nursing chart review of all consecutive elective post-adenotonsillectomy admissions of morbidly obese children (defined as >95th centile for body mass index adjusted for age and gender) to our intensive care unit over a 30-month period was performed. A total of 26 morbidly obese children were identified. The majority (14/26) had an uncomplicated recovery following surgery. Of those cases that required postoperative intervention, 10 patients required supplemental oxygen with or without suctioning and/or repositioning alone, whilst two required continuous positive airway pressure therapy. No patient required re-intubation. An oxygen saturation nadir of < 70% and the presence of more than one central apnoea, noted on preoperative overnight polysomnography, were associated with postoperative respiratory complications requiring intervention. Although the intervention group were younger, more obese and had a higher respiratory disturbance index, none of these factors were statistically significant. Routine admission to the paediatric intensive care unit of all morbidly obese children undergoing adenotonsillectomy may be unnecessary, once a suitable high level of nursing is available in an alternative setting, to administer simple positional and suctioning intervention and to perform regular patient observation. Special consideration should be given to the postoperative nursing environment for those patients with a SaO2 nadir < 70% noted preoperatively, indicating the presence of a significant central disease component.

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