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J Anesth. 2009;23(4):609-12. doi: 10.1007/s00540-009-0798-4. Epub 2009 Nov 18.

Immediate postoperative airway obstruction secondary to airway edema following tumor excision from the neck.

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Department of Anaesthesiology, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, Karnataka State, India.


A 46-year-old woman was scheduled for excision of a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor from the neck. The tumor had caused deviation of the trachea to the left and partial obstruction of the superior vena cava. Her upper airway at laryngoscopy after induction of anesthesia was normal. During tumor resection there were transient phases characterized by the complete disappearance of the peripheral oxygen saturation (Sp(O2)) and radial artery tracings. At the end of the operation, the trachea was extubated after ensuring adequate antagonization of neuromuscular blockade. However, immediately post-extubation, she showed signs of acute airway obstruction that necessitated reintubation of the trachea. Laryngoscopy revealed significant edema of the upper airway and vocal cords, requiring a smaller size tracheal tube. Many reports suggest the development of significant airway edema 24 h after such surgery. Our report highlights the fact that this can happen in the immediate postoperative period also. Some authors suggest that, in such surgery, extubation should routinely be done over pediatric tube exchangers. Routine leak testing and direct laryngoscopic/fiberoptic evaluation of the upper airway prior to extubation may also help. While our report reaffirms these points, it also stresses the importance of intraoperative monitoring for the compression of the great vessels, which may serve as a useful indicator of the early development of airway edema.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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