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Can J Anaesth. 1991 Sep;38(6):740-6.

Hypoxaemia in adults in the post-anaesthesia care unit.

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Department of Anaesthesia, Toronto General Hospital, Ontario, Canada.


Continuous pulse oximetry was performed on 173 adults after general anaesthesia for elective inpatient surgery, throughout their post-anaesthesia care unit (PACU) stay. Supplemental oxygen was administered for greater than or equal to 30 min after arrival and subsequently discontinued before discharge to the ward. The mean and minimum oxyhaemoglobin saturation (SpO2) after discontinuing oxygen were lower than those values achieved during oxygen administration and preoperatively (P less than 0.001). At least one hypoxaemic episode (SpO2 less than or equal to 90% for greater than or equal to 15 sec) occurred in 70 subjects (41%) and 45 of these had a moderate-severe episode (SpO2 greater than or equal to 90% for less than or equal to 2 min or SpO2 less than or equal to 85%). The hypoxaemic episodes began 20 +/- 20 min (range 1-100; median 15) after discontinuing supplemental oxygen. Cyanosis was detected in only four of the 70 patients who desaturated. Factors associated with hypoxaemia were: ASA physical status class; surgical duration greater than or equal to 90 min; and preoperative mean SpO2 less than 95%. Factors not associated with hypoxaemia were: age, sex, % ideal body weight, smoking history, preoperative minimum SpO2, premedication and type of surgery. In conclusion, after discontinuing supplemental oxygen in the PACU, hypoxaemia was common, difficult to detect clinically, and associated with ASA class, surgical duration and preoperative mean SpO2.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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